Speaker Mark Dawson paid Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) a visit Friday, Jan. 25 to enlighten the student body on a sensitive, but important, topic: sexual assault.

Dawson, focusing on student involvement as an aid during the presentation, kept both the conversation and the students active by selecting volunteers to play out different scenarios that may come up in everyday life. Students were asked difficult questions like, “when is it appropriate to go to the next step with a significant other?” When faced with the question of how to know when someone wants you to kiss them, many students answered with, “you just know,” based on the actions of the other person. Dawson, however, offered a different perspective.

His perspective was that one can never “just know” and that the appropriate thing to do would be to just ask, a major tenant of his lesson for the students. Dawson proves that body language can be deceiving or misinterpreted by the observer. His best example was having everyone in the auditorium stand, watch him, and follow his instructions. Dawson first held his arms out to his side, asking the audience to do the same. Then, while touching his hand to his cheek, Dawson asked everyone to touch their hands to their chin. Needless to say, most of the participants responded to his visual cues rather than his words, touching their hands to their cheeks as well.

His purpose was to emphasize that, without consent, there is no way to be sure if the other person’s body language reflects the desire that is so often perceived or if that person has completely different intentions. This message was received doubtfully by many students, claiming that asking would be “awkward” and would “ruin the moment.” Dawson countered these thoughts with the fact that not knowing if someone is actually interested in moving to the next step is no more awkward than asking that person first.

Consent, Dawson went on to say, also involve a conscious, sober, decision by both parties. What one person wanted to do while under the influence can be completely different than what that person wants after the fact. This often leads to accusations of sexual assault. Dawson’s advice: just don’t do it. If you intend to drink at a party, refrain from any promiscuous action that could end with regret.

Unfortunately, despite these precautions a person can take, sexual assault still happens on a daily basis.

In his presentation, Dawson also covers the importance of victim support, explaining how it is our responsibility to help the people we care about. Dawson brought with him an important message: sexual assault is a real problem and can only be truly avoided by those that follow the basic tenets presented in his short talk.

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