What Taylor Swift’s sexual assault trial can teach young people about consent
Taylor Swift’s sexual assault trial against ex-DJ David Mueller came to an end today as the jury sided with Taylor Swift, determining that Mueller groped Swift’s behind during a meet-and-greet. People in media have rightfully applauded Swift for her courageous, cutting testimony, and women in music have praised Swift for taking a stand. The singer-songwriter’s decision to publicly take legal action and fearlessly challenge victim-blaming is one that we should proudly recognize and stand behind.
Importantly, Swift’s determination in the courtroom is setting a precedent for future generations of young people. When a public figure, such as Taylor Swift, condemns sexual assault, we need to use it as an example.
Her testimony is a lesson in advocating for yourself, and another opportunity to clearly outline what is and isn’t consent.
Only one out of three cases of sexual assault is reported to the police. Survivors choose not to come forward for various important reasons: the fact that many perpetrators will never be punished; the deep and complex feelings of shame experienced by survivors; the attack’s ability to damage their feelings of self-worth; the understanding that they will be doubted by friends, family, and the legal system, not to mention opinionated strangers on the internet. All of these factors, and more, can prevent survivors from seeking out justice and support.
Self-advocacy requires us to speak out and ask for what we need. We have the right to speak out when someone treats us badly.
Self-advocacy is a powerful act that requires great courage, much like the courage displayed by Swift in this trial. Similarly, when we are a witness to other people’s wrongdoings, we must recognize our ability to speak against them.
Sexual assault and consent are hard enough for adults to understand and discuss, let alone for our youth.
This trial offers an opportunity to open up this conversation about sexual consent with kids, and debunk the myths surrounding consent.
Many people like to speak of sexual consent as some kind of “gray area.” But it’s not that tricky:
No means no; yes means yes. Everything that is not a clear "yes" is not consent.
Parents and educators are often nervous to initiate a dialogue around this — they don’t know how to start, or they fear what these “ideas” might spark in our youth. But when we use headline news to start the conversation, the task can become less intimidating.
Why wait until the young people around you find themselves in these horrific situations to discuss consent?
We can teach them by using their role models as protagonists in stories of bodily autonomy.
We must all stand behind Taylor Swift’s efforts to end the stigma surrounding sexual assault. It is a reminder that no sexual assault is “too small” to speak out against, and every sexual assault survivor deserves justice. Our bodies matter, our self-worth matters, and our voices matter.