Amy Hatvany says she was 15 when she was sexually assaulted. It took her years to process the trauma she had endured, to find self-worth after the harrowing experience, and to talk to others about her assault. But she did. And now—many years later—she’s a mother of two who’s consciously working to find meaningful ways to explain consent to her own children.
Hatvany recently penned an essay for Cosmopolitan. In the piece, Every Rapist Is Someone’s Child, Hatvany shared a conversation she’d recently had with her 14-year-old son. “Do you know what consent is?” she asked her son (who wasn’t named in the essay), one Sunday afternoon. “Yeah, it’s getting permission from someone to do something,” he replied. And Hatvany responded, “Like permission to have sex with them.”
“You need to be absolutely sure she wants to have sex,” Hatvany said. “If she’s too drunk—or you are—to speak clearly, you don’t even try it. You go home alone and sleep it off. If she’s sober, you need to ask her if she’s sure she wants to do it. Whatever ‘it’ is—touching, oral sex, intercourse. You need to say the words, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ And she needs to give you a verbal yes. It’s a good idea to ask her more than once. If she hesitates in any way—physically, like if she is stiff or not responding to your kissing her—or if she says something like ‘wait’ or ‘I don’t know,’ you stop. Right then. It’s over. You don’t push it. You tell her it’s fine. That you want her to be comfortable with whatever happens between you. And that you’re fine if nothing happens at all.”
With her explanation, Hatvany managed to capture the complexity of consent and boil it down into something simple. If your partner doesn’t want to—or if there is any kind of gray area—stop. Yes means yes, and nothing but explicit, repeated, clear consent means you should proceed.
In her essay, Hatvany revealed she hadn’t yet told her children about her own experience. “I briefly considered telling him what happened to me, but decided to save that intimate revelation for another time,” she wrote. “Talking with him so specifically about consent was a small step, but it’s a point that I will continue to drive home, because keeping my son from becoming like [my assailant] is another way I can take my power back.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). More resources are available online from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
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