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Conversation with Sara Li of Project Consent

What prompted you to start project consent?

This is always the hardest question for me to answer. I don’t know if there was a particular catalyst that prompted me to start Project Consent. It was just the overwhelming presence of rape culture that pushed me to do something, anything, to end it. It’s an issue that’s very close to my heart but more importantly, it’s an issue that impacts a lot of people. I saw an issue that’s disgustingly pervasive in our society and I wanted to be part of the solution. I wanted society to do better because I genuinely think that we are capable of doing better. It’s important that we’re teaching people that their stories matter and that they have the right to their own body without fear of assault and so many other things. It’s a conversation that we need to be having now.

Define consent?

I define consent as the agreement to have sex, in the shortest and briefest possible definition. It’s having each party willingly engage in any kind of sexual activity and on their own terms. Sex shouldn’t be forced under any circumstance and people have to understand that.

What was the reaction from your community?

From my own personal community, the response came immediately and in lack of better words, it could not have been worse. As much as I’ve come to appreciate my time in Kansas, we are not a state known for its acceptance of social change. Mix that with the immaturity of high school and you get a pretty negative reaction from my immediate community. It’s been pretty miserable, coming to school and loathing every hour of your day because people were actively tearing you down. So it’s been difficult but at the same time, it’s been completely worthwhile. The greatest piece of advice that I’ve ever gotten in my life came from my English teacher who told me that it’s the hardships that build you. I know what I’m fighting for and I know why I’m doing this so at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

How does project consent work?

First and foremost, we’re a platform. I wanted Project Consent to be a place where anyone can speak about their own experiences and provide insight. As much as I’ve learned, I can’t pretend to be an expert on every single aspect of rape culture. When you’re running a project on social change, intersectionality is vital and I wanted to provide others the opportunity to use their own voice for change. So we work with a multitude of people on ways that we can shed light on the subject. We also encourage people to submit their own work on preventing sexual assault. There’s no one, single tactic that we use to address this issue and there shouldn’t be. There are so many ways of getting information out and we just brainstorm ways that we can get our message across in the best way possible.

How can someone participate?

We have a page on our website where people can submit their work to us, if they chose. Or, really, all they have to do is be willing to speak out against rape culture. At the end of the day, that’s all we’re aiming for.

Who has been a big supporter?

Caitlin Stasey, definitely. She’s been supportive of the project from the start and since then, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how passionate and driven she is about everything. I have an insane amount of respect for her and everything that she’s doing with Herself. Gaby Dunn, one of the funniest and sharpest people that I’ve ever interviewed, has always been a huge advocate for social activism and she’s been insanely kind about this as well. We’ve also been lucky enough to get followers from all over the globe and I think that just goes to show how important it is that we’re raising awareness for this. And despite the negativity in my immediate community, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a group of people to help me endure the rough patches. So, yeah, a big thank you to Anna Schauer, Laura Nicolae, and Mr. Mees because there’s just something weird about calling your teacher ‘Nathan’.

Where do you hope to see project consent headed?

Everywhere! I hope that we’re able to reach as many people as possible because I firmly believe that this is something that everyone needs to hear. People need to hear that sexual assault is real, that rape culture is pervasive, and that it’s more than time for us to step up to the plate. I would love it if schools would start teaching their students about the importance of consent and I’d really, really love it for people to finally start supporting victims of sexual assault. There are so many things that I want to do with Project Consent and it’s all I can do to never stop trying.

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Evelyn V. Woodsen
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Evelyn Atieno is a sometimes journalist who enjoys binge watching Gossip Girl every other month. She has been featured in MTV,Business Insider, Huffington Post and The Baltimore Sun

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