Open Letter to George Lawlor

Group of college students in the university amphitheatre, they are sitting and listening to a lecture.
Group of college students in the university amphitheatre, they are sitting and listening to a lecture.

I came across your article today, and I must say, I'm distraught. With some extremely misplaced anger, you attempted to begin a crusade against consent classes, and in a fury let the world know what a waste of time you believe them to be.

So I wanted to let you know what I believe is a waste of time.

A waste of time is you, a college-aged male, writing a sign that says "This is not what a rapist looks like," when about one third of college aged men (31.7 percent) admitted in a study done at the University of North Dakota, that they would rape a woman, if there were no consequences.

A waste of time is spending time on writing an article bashing activists, when you yourself could have been, as you so eloquently put it, doing "countless other more useful things... [like] making a difference by actually going out and campaigning, volunteering and caring for other people."

A waste of time was reading your article, and allowing myself to become distraught over it.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Pegah Maleki. I am a 21-year-old college student. I am a woman of color. I have been educating individuals on my campus on consent for about three years now, first as a peer educator and now as an intern with a department related to campus community life. I have spent hours attending events on sexual and domestic violence, being an activist and advocate, and speaking out on this cause in various capacities, particularly in spaces where the voices of survivors are stifled. You've so gracefully decided to let me know that I have been selfish, delusional in my efforts, that I have little respect for anyone, and I have done nothing at all in my efforts to evoke change.

How about you sit down, while I take the time to climb down from the "high horse" you see me on, and allow me to speak with you.

I came into education as a consent and sexual violence educator because of my continuous encounters with survivors of sexual violence, and my own experience with it. These assaults occurred, in many situations, by men who did not and may never realize what they have done is wrong. These man could be taken to court and will stand by the fact that they haven't assaulted anyone. Because they genuinely may not think they have assaulted anyone.

Why?

Because they don't understand what consent actually is.

I have been involved in hours of education and training to prepare myself to be an educator. I have given various presentations across campus, and I am proud to say I have established myself as someone not only survivors feel comfortable confiding in, but someone men can come to, with fears, concerns and questions. I am nonjudgmental. I am personable.

You say you don't look like a rapist. Well, I have spent hours having conversations with people like you who believe that a rapist has a specific look. I have spent hours in conversations with men like you who believe there is stark line between "the rapists," and then "everyone else." I have spent hours on Twitter having conversations with many individuals like you, who do not understand that college rape is committed by and large by acquaintances, rather than strangers.Ninety percent of college-aged women who were assaulted knew their assailant previous to their attack, meaning they were assaulted by peers, friends, intimate partners. Meaning largely college-aged men. But I'm sure you must know this, since you say you don't need consent education.

You say consent is simple. That yes means yes, and no means no. But what if someone changes their mind halfway? What if someone is not moving, and just lays there? What if the couple is dating, or they've had sex multiple times before? What if they've drank alcohol? What if both people in the encounter feel violated in the morning? What if the person doesn't say no, but doesn't say yes either?

Tell me, what about those situations? If you can answer them all, I applaud you. But there are many people, and I'm not simply talking about men, who can't. Because in no curriculum, K-12, is there any education solely about the concept of "consent," what it is, why it's important, and how to get it.

I spend hours trying to educate people around me so my children can live in a safer world. I stand alongside so many women like me, consent and violence educators, who have quite literally stepped out of workshops and presentations they've given, or community work they have done, and been cat-called and sexually harassed on the street moments later.

So when you say that what I do is selfish, I laugh.

That's not selfish. That's sacrifice.

In addition to the work I do on campus for sexual violence specifically, I work on a hotline 24 hours a week, to assist survivors of other trauma. That's a total of 34 hours a week, not counting the additional conversations and presentations I attend/present at, doing things for other people. I have assisted in organizing events on campus with other incredible individuals, and educators, towards raising awareness, giving survivors a voice, and creating a safe campus culture. And I've just spoken about myself so far -- I have worked alongside other educators, directors, and professors who have evoked exorbitant amounts of change through their involvement. In programs I am a part of, and projects I do, I always attempt to research and contribute to the field of sexual and domestic violence. I singlehandedly created, designed, implemented and hosted a sexual violence awareness benefit concert through one of these programs, that focused on raising money, awareness, solidarity for victims, and you guessed it, educating the campus community on consent.

I spend at the very minimum, 34 hours a week, because I want to make a safer world for people like you, people like me, and for everyone around me. I have the highest regard for other people, and I care so much about others. And I am not tooting my own horn, but I will be damned if you accuse me of anything but caring. I have never accuses anyone of being "vile-rapists in waiting." Instead, I take the time to talk to men about gender violence, about the reality of one in five college-aged women, and one in 16 college-aged men, who will become victims of sexual violence during their time at a college or university. I have dedicated my life and time to empowering people to recognize violence, understand violence, and step in to help prevent violence.

You can ask any man I've ever spoken with if there was a moment where I said "all men are rapists." I have never started nor ended a conversation about consent and sexual assault, without clearly demanding people understand that men and women and all those who don't identify in the gender binary, can be victims AND perpetrators. There is no sexuality, gender, or race to a rapist nor a victim.

Correct me if I am wrong, but none of the work I have done is a waste of your time. People do not understand what consent, or lack of consent, means. Remember that study I mentioned at the beginning of this letter? One in every three college men (31.7 percent) stated they would rape a woman, if there were no consequences. But for that study, the word rape wasn't used in the question; it instead referenced "forceful intercourse."

When asked a second time, "forceful intercourse" was changed to the word "rape." The numbers dropped, to 13.6 percent.

In response to your article: You are wrong.

We don't live in a world where consent is common knowledge.

But you see George, with the work I, and countless other individuals across the world, have done, and continue to do?

We intend on making that so.

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