Part 2: communication and consent

Please note in this blog, we will be talking about sexual harassment and sexual assault. Some of the material might be distressing. We encourage you to take breaks and take time to process the material. 

If you need support, please call:
• 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)
• Lifeline (13 11 14)
• In an emergency, please contact police on 000.
• Current UofA students can visit the Safer Campus website or reach out to the Counselling Service for support.


The perks of being a young adult in this digital age is the prized experience of facing the shenanigans of online dating. The blog below continues the account of a personal story (read Part 1 for context).

Long story short, the drive had me completely blindsided. I found myself entering the South Eastern Freeway and looked up at a sign which read ‘Mt Osmond’. Upon seeing the road, I nervously asked, ‘where are we going’? He casually remarked that we just ended up here and continued driving. Still feeling guilty, and my tendency to be overly accommodating and nice in uncomfortable situations to avoid conflict, I found myself frozen in silence as we drove up the secluded windy roads. I was in complete shock and had no idea what to do. It was a one-way road so turning around wasn’t an option.

Finally, we stopped. I awkwardly engaged in small talk about the lookout view and quickly reminded him that my friends had finished dinner and we should head back. I also added that one of my friends was soon to be left alone in the city so I wanted to be back ASAP. I was starting to feel anxious, particularly as paranoia set in looking around at the empty nature surroundings (p.s. I texted a friend updating them where I was – always let someone know the location and the person you are meeting with).

He agreed to leave but just before starting the engine, he kissed me. I was shocked and felt very uncomfortable but trying to avoid confrontation, I pulled back, didn’t overreact and just reminded him that I wanted to go back ASAP. Instead of driving, he leant in again and after I pulled away, he chuckled and remarked that he probably ‘should have asked for consent’. Yes, he really did say this to me – he was self-aware but still capable of creating a very uncomfortable encounter. After what felt like the longest drive back to the CBD, I was safely away.

Why didn’t I react angrily or demand to be let outside the car? Could this be my fault?  I was in complete shock and in a dissociative mindset to avoid panic. I decided to react calmly particularly as I was aware that I was in his car and the drive back to the city would be uncomfortable with an adverse reaction. He had the upper hand; I was in his car in a secluded area, he was my ride back to the city on a cold night and honestly, I was worried that an upset reaction would result in an even worse outcome than him driving me back to the city. Why didn’t he ask if it would be okay to drive up to Mt Osmond? I would never have given my consent to being at Mt Osmond, after all, my friends were on the same street as us at dinner and I told him that my plan was to see them after.

Unwanted kissing is often categorised in the passive ‘harassment’ category but it must be understood that forcing a kiss on someone is invasive and uncomfortable to experience. It isn’t romantic, and an ‘innocent misunderstanding’ should not be an excuse – it can leave somebody feeling violated and shameful that it happened. In combination with an imbalanced power dynamic (being in an unfamiliar area in a stranger’s car), this interaction was made more distressing.

One of the key takeaways from my experience is the importance of communication and consent. If I could re-do that experience, I would’ve been more persistent with seeing my friends after the dinner and asking more questions to determine the intentions of the drive. Agreeing to meet a stranger online is a big deal and being safe and comfortable is the main priority. Never agree to do anything that you’re not comfortable with. It’s unfortunate that almost every friend I know has an uncomfortable dating experience – that’s why education and mindfulness of unwanted behaviour is significant. It’s also important that you don’t gaslight your own personal experiences and seek support if you feel affected in any way.

This week is Safer Campus Week and I encourage you to visit the Safer Campus website which has extensive resources including bystander information and a course for consent. If you would like to report sexual harassment or sexual assault, please visit this page.

If you require support check out Student Life Counselling Support, who provides free and confidential support – including sexual assault support.

Tagged in What messes with your head, relationships, Wellbeing