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Time to Say YES TO NO!

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Grammy winner Megan Trainor just released her new single “No.”  Not only is the upbeat, feisty song perfect for dancing (or just singing in the car with your kids), but it also has a really important message that I LOVE. The song is all about a strong woman telling a guy making unwanted advances to ‘get lost.’

It might sound like a simple message—but it’s actually quite revolutionary in our society. From childhood, we raise girls to be polite, nice, acquiescing, and accommodating. While it is great to teach everyone (not just girls) to be kind, we shouldn’t teach them to do so at their own detriment. We need to teach our girls that it is okay to say ‘no,’ to demand their space, and to even—gasp—‘be mean’ if someone is not respecting their boundaries. (Boys should also learn this too, but we tend to have the opposite problem with our young men…we raise them to go into hyper “alpha male” mode in order to prove their masculinity and worth).

Put these together, and it is easy to see why girls and women everywhere need a song like “No” to help remind that saying “no” isn’t a dirty word, and it should not be something they are afraid to say. Instead of thinking of rape as something that only happens in a dark alley with a boogeyman, we need to realize that rape often happens in “safe” spaces. In our homes between a husband and a wife. At a party where a guy ‘friend’ takes advantage of a drunk woman. In our dorm rooms. In our military.

In fact, college campuses are truly a ‘hunting ground’ when it comes to sexual assault, hence the name of the landmark documentary The Hunting Ground.  One in five women in college are sexually assaulted.  However only a fraction of these crimes are reported, and even fewer result in punishment for the perpetrator. As the filmmakers put it on their website, "Scrutinizing the gamut of elite Ivies, state universities, and small colleges, filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering reveal an endemic system of institutional cover-ups, rationalizations, victim-blaming, and denial that creates perfect storm conditions for predators to prey with impunity.” http://www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com/

Lady Gaga performed “Till it Happens to You” (from the film) at the Grammy's and it was breath-taking to see her take the stage and stand in solidarity with a crowd of sexual assault victims, each of them taking back their voice and releasing shame that they don't deserve, including Gaga.

Sadly, the reality of sexual assault is not one that is going to go away anytime soon. When New England prep school student Owen Labrie was charged with sexual assault last year, it unleashed a scandal that most parents couldn’t believe.

Upperclassmen were taking part in a challenge called the “Senior Salute” in which they tried to bed underclass girls at all costs. It’s hard to believe, but we know that such predatory behavior is not uncommon, as Yale University basketball captain Jack Montague was expelled after a woman came forward and accused him of sexual assault. Both of these cases are still pending, but one thing is for certain: Our young girls need a message that it is okay to say, and our boys need to hear this message as well—that when girls say no, it means NO.

Academia is not the only place where sexual assault is allowed to thrive. Nearly one in three women report being raped while serving in the military. Luckily, there are many people who are valiantly trying to change this, including New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand who is trying to change the way that sexual crimes in the military are handled, requiring greater accountability and less “wiggle room” for accused predators to skate by without question.

We have a long, hard battle in front of us when it comes to ending sexual assault. But with every stand taken by politicians like Gillibrand, with every brave survivor who comes forward, and with every singer such as Megan Trainor giving us a powerful song like “No,” we are getting one step closer.

Remember, No always means No. Even if she already said yes one time before. Even if she said yes one SECOND before. As soon as she says, no…it is over!

So, girls (and women): Please find your NO. And Boys (and men): Hear the NO and OBEY it. It doesn’t make you less of a man that she isn’t in the mood right now—it makes you more of a man that you are willing to listen and respect her, and it means that when you do finally make love, that is what it will be—love, not rape.

Author: Dr. Laura Berman