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Consent

“Respect for Others”

-Traditional Iñupiaq Value 1

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This is a heavy topic that will review some difficult subjects. Remember to take care of yourself, and be aware of your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical status. Be sure to take breaks if needed.

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Last updated April 2021

What is consent?

Consent means to give permission for something to happen. It’s an agreement between one or more people to do something.2 Giving consent, or agreeing to something, is an important aspect of everyday life that helps build and maintain healthy relationships between two or more people. It is an ongoing gift, within our power, that we may choose to give to any situation.

Consent can be applied to many different situations. From making maqii for uppa or gram, talking on the phone with a friend, giving an uncle a hug, hanging out with cousins, kissing a partner, or playing basketball with a team. Giving consent is a personal choice that nobody can make or take from anyone else in any situation.

Topics to consider:

Because there are other people involved in this agreement, we need to define the boundaries of consent, which includes understanding bodily autonomy and boundaries.
credit: Teens Acting Against Violence, Bethel, Alaska

This video was made by Teens Acting Against Violence in Bethel, Alaska.

Here are some ground rules of giving consent:

Consent is…

Consent is made without external influence or outside pressure to give consent.

Everyone has the power to give consent to the situation and take it back if they want to. Anyone can change their mind about what they consent to at any time, no matter the situation.

People can only consent to a situation if they have all the information about what they are being asked to consent to.

Consent is an enthusiastic agreement! It means saying something like ‘yes, absolutely, I want to do that!’. While a person doesn’t have to jump or shout for joy while they’re giving consent, the activity should be something that they 100% want to do.

Agreeing to one thing one time does not give consent to anything else. If someone specifically gave consent to engage in an activity, like kissing someone on the cheek, that does not mean that they will or should give consent to it again, or give consent to do other things than kissing on the cheek.

Remember: Consent is an enthusiastic ‘yes!’. Sometimes, everyone involved in an activity is 100% onboard and doesn’t take long to decide if they’d like to consent. Other times, it can be hard to know if a situation is something you’re enthusiastic about, or 100% want to do. In this situation, it’s best to wait to figure out what exactly you want to do before engaging in the action. To narrow down what you want to do, try asking your head, heart and body a few questions:

Ask yourself:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Is the other person in a position of authority over me? Do I feel pressured to do this?
  • Does this fit with my personal values?
  • Am I clear-headed? Am I under the influence of substances?
  • How is this activity affecting me spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally now? How will it impact me in the future, like tomorrow?

Ask yourself:

  • Does this feel right to me?
  • Do I like this person? Can I trust them?
  • Do I like what’s happening?

Ask yourself:

  • Am I old enough to consent to this activity?
  • What does my body want to do? Is my body in a trauma response?
  • What is my ‘gut feeling’ telling me about this?
  • Are my physical boundaries being respected by the other person?
  • Have I discussed the use of birth control or safer sex practices with this person?

If your head, heart, and body aren’t in agreement with what you want, it’s likely not a good time to engage in the activity. It is always ok to say ‘no’ and set firm boundaries. If you aren’t sure that consent was given by the other person, stop and ask. If you’re still not sure that consent was given by the other person, even though you’ve asked, stop the activity until you are 100% sure. While we can’t make others give their consent before they are ready, we can respect each other’s boundaries by stopping activities that make others uncomfortable.

Handling rejection

It is always ok to say ‘no’. But what happens if someone says ‘no’ to you? Do you…

  • Become angry?
    It’s ok to feel the way that you do. But, when you take it out on the others because they did not consent to do something with you, that is when it is not ok.
  • Think of ways to get them to say yes?
    This can be called manipulation, or even coercion, when you force or pressure someone to do something they don’t want to do. Manipulating or coercing someone might make someone say ‘yes’ out of peer pressure or even fear. But, this is not consent and may end up traumatizing the other person. Depending on the situation and where you live, this can even be illegal.

It is important to practice handling rejection in a healthy way. Take a look at some of these tips on how to handle rejection.

There are some aspects to consent that not everyone can agree to, even if they are offering an enthusiastic ‘yes’ to the situation. Giving consent to sexual activities is just one example of this. If someone is too young, unable to process information, or not in a sober state, they cannot consent to any sexual activity.

It is important to have open communication with each sexual partner about each other’s sexual boundaries, consent, and wants. This could look like having a discussion before things get started or stopping during sexual activities to check in. Talking about the sexual activities afterwards on what people liked or didn’t like can even help to inform you on boundaries and consent for the next time you may engage in sexual activities – whether you perform those activities with the same people or not.

The age of consent is the minimum age in which a person can consent to sexual activities.3 Here is what the Alaska law states about the age of consent:

  • Two people who are both 16 or older can agree to have sex with each other.
  • When a person involved in sex is under the age of 16, Alaska law looks at the difference in ages to decide whether that person is legally able to agree to sex.
  • No one over 16 can have sex with someone who is 13 or younger.
  • No teenager can have sex with someone who is 4 or more years older.
  • The law also makes it a crime for a person in a position of authority over a younger person (such as a teacher, coach or minister) to have sex with the younger person.

The laws are a little different with sexting or possessing ‘nudes’, aka naked photos. Because this is newer technology, this information is subject to change. Take a look at the Alaska Youth Law Guide for more information.

When consent is not respected: How to get help

One thing to keep clear among all parties involved: Consent should be continuous throughout all sexual activity. Any situation where your consent to sexual activities was not given or respected may be considered as sexual assault or rape.4

If it is safe to do so, speak with a trusted adult. School counselors, nurses, teachers, principals, Tribal leaders, or other trusted adults are there to help guide and support anyone in need. Here are some other ways to get help in Alaska:

  • STAR
    24/7 Crisis Line: (907) 276-7273
    Address: 1057 W. Fireweed Ave Suite 230, Anchorage AK, 99503
  • AWAIC
    24/7 Crisis Line: (907)272-0100
    Address: 100 W. 13th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501
  • Covenant House
    Phone: (907) 272-1255
    Address: 755 A. St, Anchorage AK, 99501

For more resources, open this PDF for national and local resources for support.

Remember, every person…

  • has the right to not consent or consent to any sexual activity at any time.
  • has the right to keep their decision to consent or not consent private.  
  • can withdraw consent even while it’s happening.

For More Information

  • We R Native (WRN): A comprehensive health resource for Native youth, by Native youth, providing content and stories about the topics that matter most to them. WRN strives to promote holistic health and positive growth in our local communities and nation at large.
  • Healthy Native Youth (HNY): A resource-bank for AN/AI culturally-relevant health promotion curricula and resources. The site is designed for tribal health educators, teachers, and parents – providing the training and tools needed to access and deliver effective, age-appropriate programs.
  • Text the word “EMPOWER” to 97779 to receive weekly text messages from HNY that offer culturally appropriate tips and resources, covering sexual health, pregnancy, STDs and consent!
  • Planned Parenthood: Delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information worldwide.  

[3]Alaska Youth Law Guide. (2021). Statutory Rape and Age of Consent. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Reference: https://alaskabar.org/youth/sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll/sex/sexual-crimes/statutory-rape-and-age-of-consent/

[2]Merriam-Webster. (2020). Consent. Dictionary. Reference: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consent

[4]Planned Parenthood. (2021). Sexual Consent. Relationships. Reference: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/relationships/sexual-consent

[1]UAF. (2021). Inupiaq cultural values. Inupiat ilitqusiat. Reference: http://ankn.uaf.edu/ancr/Values/inupiaq.html

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