When ‘Yes’ Means ‘No’: How to Identify Rape

By MindfulAide

Trigger Warning: themes of sexual assault

I knew him from my group of friends in high school. He was in university, he had drugs on hand that I had never heard of, and he loved to dance. One night while smoking weed with some friends he innocently asked me if I had ever been to a dark rave, and would I like to go dancing with him and his girlfriend? She seemed cool, and I would have loved to get to know her more, so I said yes. I was barely fifteen, and they were well into their twenties. We all ordered in pizza, ate, and then started drinking magic mushroom tea. Then we dropped acid. Then we popped MDMA. It is at that point things get a little fuzzy around the edges.

I remember being at the club – no idea how I got in – and eventually not being able to stand anymore. His girlfriend  disappeared; were they arguing? He gave me another alcoholic drink. I remember not being able to walk properly outside the club. After that there are flashes of some sexual acts, but I was really out of it. I remember puking into a toilet for a long time afterwards.

I woke up the next day naked in his bed. He had his clothes on. He told me that he wanted me to get out, so I got dressed and left still somewhat buzzing. I knew I had sex with him, my clothes were everywhere, and I did remember doing it. I just felt incredibly guilty. I felt as though I had cheated on my boyfriend. I felt I did something wrong. I knew I must have agreed to it because I was enjoying what I could remember… didn’t I? I never said no, did I? I must have agreed. I must have.

Consent (1)Fast forward a decade: I am in therapy trying to untangle another unrelated traumatic situation. A light goes off. Holy ****. That was rape! I was raped! He raped me! Even if I had consented, it wasn’t really consent because I was on way too many drugs. I was out of my mind. I barely remembered anything from that night! Unfortunately, too much time had passed to report the incident.

This type of story is not uncommon among teenagers and young adults. It can be difficult to identify rape and/or sexual assault because many times after an incident the survivor will feel confused, guilty, and shocked. They will be completely unsure if they have experienced rape, or if they should tell someone.

The main reason for this is because there is a lack of education regarding what sexual assault looks like. If I had been equipped with the right knowledge early on I would have easily identified the situation and been able to report it. This knowledge is also important because when someone has been educated, and they then experience a sexual assault, the severity of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms they may experience as a result of the incident is reduced.

After a sexual experience happens where you feel confused, it is vitally important that you ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. How old am I and how old are they?

In most states in the U.S. the age of consent is 16 to 18 and in Canada the age of consent is 16. If you are under the age of consent you are not legally able to agree to have sex. It is also easier to manipulate people under the age of consent. If the person you had sex with is over that age and you are under that age, and you feel conflicted, then this is a big problem. You’ve been raped.

  1. Did ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’?

Both people must have the capacity to say ‘yes’. This means you cannot have diminished capacity: some people with disabilities, some elderly people, people that have been drugged or are drunk, and people that are unconscious are all considered to have diminished capacity. If you had diminished capacity and experienced something similar to the story in this article, then this is a big problem. You’ve been raped.

  1. Did both participants agree to have sex?

Did someone force you to have sexual contact with thSilence_does_not_equal_consentem? Did they threaten you to make you have sex with them? Did you say ‘no’, did you ask for them to ‘stop’? Did you feel like you couldn’t say no, or anything at all? If someone has or continues to have sexual content with someone after they’ve given the instruction for you to ‘stop’ or have not explicitly consented, that person has committed a crime. If you asked someone to stop and they continued, or if you didn’t feel you could say ‘no’ out loud safely, then this is a big problem. You’ve been raped.

Many people have asked me in the past if it counts as rape if they were drunk. The answer here is yes. Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse or a legal alibi. In this situation ‘yes’ can mean ‘no’, so if someone is obviously inebriated, they should not be asked for sexual contact. Engaging in risky behavior is no reason for someone to hurt you.

In addition, just because you are dating someone doesn’t mean they are automatically granted privileges to your body. You are still allowed to ask them to stop or say no at any time. If they continue, that is rape. Knowing the person who has raped you is called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape” and it is just as serious as any other form of rape.

Many people have asked me if it counts as rape if they don’t remember the assault, or were passed out. The answer here is also yes. Just because you can’t remember something happening, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. If there are videos, pictures, texts, or online boasts by people saying they committed a sexual act with you and you do not remember it, that is incriminating evidence and you should take a copy to the police right away. If you have any marks on your body or wake up unsure of what happened the night before, you should get examined by a doctor as soon as possible so that physical evidence can be taken.

Lastly, just because you do not resist doesn’t mean you wanted to have sex. You may not have felt able to resist, either mentally or physically. Your body may have even experienced pleasure from the act despite you not wanting to experience that pleasure. That’s just biology and it isn’t your fault. You should report any sexual act that is unwanted, even if you didn’t resist.

You deserve to enjoy your life, have fun, and experiment in safety.

The Assaulted Women’s Helpline (Canada) is a free confidential service, and they do take calls from men as well: 1-866-863-0511

The National Sexual Assault Hotline (USA) is free confidential service: 1-800-656-HOPE


MindfulAidephoto 2

MindfulAide is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a degree in Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence (Hons.). She is a coordinator and administrator at Ryerson University, and a practicing Bön Buddhist. As a survivor she is a passionate volunteer in multiple communities, regularly seeking out other survivors of sexual assault and violent crime to provide support. She enjoys video games, crafting, art, and reading. She has been diagnosed with chronic and complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. You can find more of her work at http://rememberhowtofly.com.

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