We have all heard this word, but not everyone knows the exact definition. It's important for everyone, including people with disabilities, to know that they have the right to say "no" and that it is illegal to perform any sexual act on another person without their consent.
My friend once gave me the acronym FRIES for remembering all parts of consent:
Freely given: it is not given under pressure or through threats, or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications.
Reversible: you can change your mind at any time
Informed: you understand what is being asked, and the potential consequences (i.e. STD's, pregnancy)
Enthusiastic: a very clear "yes!", not an "um" or a "maybe", and never the absence of a "no"
Specific: for each sexual act, consent needs to be given. A person may agree to one thing, but not another.
It's important to make these definitions clear to people with intellectual disabilities. Talk to them about it, and you can practice at home even by just asking for consent to borrow something, or try role playing a situation. Without practice, it can be hard to remember how to assert yourself when put in a more dangerous situation, so it's a great idea to start working on this at home. It is also important to discuss how to respond to someone saying "no" to you, and respecting their choice not to engage in an act.
Many people find it difficult to bring these topics up, and struggle to find the right words to explain consent (or other topics around healthy relationships). We are here to help! Please contact us if you would like more information, resources, or education. In addition, you can visit the Teach Consent website for a video and discussion guide that may also be useful at home.
Thanks for reading!
Owner, Heart Consulting LLC