Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA) has served the community since 1972 as the only sexual violence resource center serving Boulder County, Colorado.

Quarantine and Connection: Digital Contact and Consent

The majority of the content of this blog was written by the NSVRC’s Laura Palumbo, Megan Thomas, and Susan Sullivan. Read the original posting here.

Living in the digital age has taken on a whole new meaning as we navigate the crucial need for social isolation in the face of a global pandemic. Although the impact of social distancing looks different for everyone, for most of us, life has fundamentally changed. Still, our lives are not on hold. In these difficult and uncertain times, physically distancing has not changed our inherent connectedness. Relationships, community, and society persist as individuals of all ages are relying on technology to stay connected.

That’s why this April, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we look at the role consent plays in our ever-evolving digital lives. Whether you are a parent whose children and teens are no longer in school, or you are adjusting to telecommuting or schooling remotely, time spent online is increasing and taking on new forms. In this time of social distancing, relationships are going digital. Video chatting, messaging, and social media are keeping us connected to family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.


Digital consent is needed more than ever

Children and adolescents are staying connected through Zoom, Facetime, Xbox, and other online platforms. This provides an opportunity for parents to start a dialogue with their children about respecting digital boundaries. Parents can let their kids know that while they may not be talking face-to-face, they should still consider how their actions might make another person feel and ask questions if they don’t know. Discuss the importance of checking in about when and how often they text someone and asking for consent before tagging or sharing information about someone online.

Adult couples may also be interacting digitally more than before. A couple socially isolating from one another may start using digital communication to send nudes or sext. Not everyone feels comfortable sexting and that’s okay, but if a couple is interested in trying it, they’ll need to agree on what they are okay with sending and receiving, what to do with any photos they send, and so on.

Unsure about how to ask for consent digitally? Check out this video:


Practicing consent while social distancing

Social distancing means people are choosing to forego social outings and visits. Use this opportunity to practice digital consent by checking in to see what your friends’ and family members’ limits are. For example, you can send a quick text asking if someone has time for a chat before calling or Facetiming them. You should also respect their boundaries if they are opting out of socializing in-person. If you are quarantining with a family member, partner, or roommate, or if you need to interface with others in a public setting, this situation is a crucial reminder that everyone’s personal-space boundaries are different and warrant respect.

Want to test your consent knowledge? Take this quiz!

Did you ace the consent quiz? You could be a great fit as a volunteer for MESA. Check out our volunteer opportunities here.

 Martha Hawkinson
Bilingual Victim Advocate
Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA)