“NOT ASKING FOR IT” – A pretty face does NOT represent consent

On September 22nd 2015, the Irish Times published an article about a campus-wide campaign with the aim of highlighting the issue of sexual assault among students, to be launched by the UCD students’ union. According to the article, the intent of the ‘Not Asking For It’ campaign was ‘to offer students the opportunity to describe their experiences of sexual assault when consent was assumed but not given,’ a statement made by the union vice-president and graduate officer Hazel Beattie.

The article went on to quote Beattie saying that ‘in her experience, consent is a problem issue among the student population and that a mindset of assumed consent, especially when drink is involved, leads to sexual assaults. Author Louise O’Neill, whose latest novel ‘Asking for It’ addresses the aftermath of a rape in a close-knit Irish community, launched the campaign on October 8th, 2015.

Saint Lucians have joined an international campaign against sexual assault and rape.

Saint Lucians have joined an international campaign against sexual assault and rape.

Beattie’s campaign plan would involve three elements; The first being focus groups, where students would be invited to tell their stories of sexual assault.

The intent was for the stories to then be printed anonymously on posters and stuck up around the campus under the banner heading, “Not Asking For It”. The final part of the campaign was to involve a survey in the second semester, which would attempt to record the number of students who have been the victims of sexual assault.

Last month’s murder of Japanese national and steel pan player Asami Nagakiya in Trinidad during carnival stirred people from within the Caribbean and throughout the Diaspora. Since then a team of Caribbean and UK Nationals have picked up the ‘Not Asking For It’ baton. Fiona Compton has been the St. Lucian face for the UK birthed initiative and the local and regional campaign leg kicked off this week in full effect, with persons voluntarily passing on the message and raising public awareness and consciousness of the rights of women worldwide.

Nagakiya’s untimely and tragic death was placed within the public light due to the outcryseemingly feminist and morally discriminatory remarks made by then Port of Spain Mayor Kee. His statements alluded that the Japanese victim authored her own misfortune due to her mode of dress, being a carnival costume at the time of her murder.

‘Women have a responsibility to ensure they are not abused during the Carnival season. It’s a matter of, if she was still in her costume – I think that’s what I heard – let your imagination roll”, was the statement which initiated sheer outrage worldwide among women worldwide. The mayor then resigned due to public outcry over his comments.

The group believes that while comments like this and others may have triggered the disgust and disapproval of many, that the Mayor himself is not the issue. They believe that Mayor Tim Kee resonated the sentiments of many men and women Caribbean-wide and around the world, which seem to suggest that if a woman carries herself in a certain manner, that she is inviting rape or even death by making herself target to such feminist abuses.

Though the intensity of the flames has since subsided, victim-blaming remains an issue throughout the masses. For this reason the team has launched the “NOT ASKING FOR IT “campaign within the Caribbean and by extension Saint Lucia.

The drive consists of effective mediums such as a series of varied media ranging from videos and music pieces, to photo diaries and Tee-Shirts, which all endeavour to eradicate the victim-blaming culture. Another aim of the drive is to put into perspective ‘being responsible for one’s self’, versus ‘being at fault if one is attacked. ‘

According to activists, theirs is not a campaign to encourage irresponsible behaviour, but rather a movement to end the stigma which unfortunately states that a woman may in some form encourage the unacceptable behaviour of violence inflicted upon her.

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