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Event teaches that ‘no is no’

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Giving consent in a sexual situation can be complicated. Sometimes a “yes” or “no” can be quick and emphatic. Other times, consent, or the lack of it, comes hesitantly, in roundabout ways. People sometimes have no trouble saying just what they mean, and other times, words get stuck. Girls and young women, especially, can falter when trying not to offend.

Organizers of Consent 101, a workshop taking place Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. at the Yellow Springs Arts Council, believe that consent is a critical topic. And these organizers also believe that the issue is especially timely in Yellow Springs, following incidents in which some local women felt uncomfortable with behavior they perceived as inappropriate.

“We realized that as a community and a society, we have trouble making good boundaries,” said Lindsay Burke, who with Ri Molnar is organizing a monthlong series of events, starting with the gathering on May 5, aimed at rape prevention. “We want people to feel comfortable with boundaries.”

And while any event addressing sexual violence can be fraught with the potential for anger, stereotyping or misunderstanding, the organizers intend to keep these workshops more upbeat.

“Our goal is to make it positive,” Burke said. “We want to focus on educating people, giving them tools. We want to talk about how to keep ourselves and our community safe, to make people feel empowered.”

And empowerment is critical in a male-dominated culture, according to organizers. For instance, one in five women, and one in 71 men, will be raped at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Many women also falsely assume that strangers are those they should fear, but in 8 out of 10 cases of sexual assault, the victims know their assailants. And about 90 percent of the victims of rape are women.

The May 5 event on consent features presenters from the Cincinnati Radical Reminist Collective and the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio, or SARNCO. “In a world seeped in rape culture, consent can take a little extra practice,” organizers wrote in an email. “We’ll work to understand some ways to give consent, ways to ensure all folks are truly giving consent and we’ll practice talking about consent.”

Organizers invite those of all races and genders to take part in the programs, although they may be more appropriate for those over 13. Childcare will be provided.

Funding for the events is provided by the Human Relations Commission, or HRC.

Following the consent event, on Saturday, May 7, at 6 p.m. a screening of the film “Born in Flames” will take place at the Antioch Arts and Sciences Building, room 219. In the futuristic film, when “a socialist government gains power, a group of women decides to organize and rebel,” according to the email.

On Thursday, May 12, at 7 p.m., representatives from Black and Pink SWOhio and the Redbird Prison Abolition Collective will address prison abolitions and transformative justice and “why they are important,” organizers wrote. “If we are to envision and become a world without prisons, we will have to continue building alternatives that center on accountability, trust and empowered transformation within our own communities.”

This event takes place at the Yellow Springs Arts Council Gallery on Corry Street.

The following week, on Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m. at the John Bryan Community Center dance studio, organizers present Johanna Kohout, who will teach self-defense. “In this two-hour workshop we will explore a variety of different strategies for protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our community,” organizers said. This event is limited to women, trans and queer participants.

And on Thursday, May 26, 7 p.m., location to be announced, “ Survivor’s Guide to Great Sex” will be presented by representatives from the Ohio Coalition to End Sexual violence and In Solidarity We Rise.

After the series, Molnar and Burke hope that participants stay connected to each other and perhaps work together to build more ways for women to learn tools and strategies for safety. For instance, the Dayton area currently has no rape center, and it needs one, Molnar said.

“We hope this is the start of something,” she said of the May events. “We hope it helps us to build coalitions.”

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