Melanie Martinez's Response To Rape Allegations Misses An Important Point About Consent
On Tuesday, The Voice Season 3 contestant Melanie Martinez denied the rape allegation made against her by Timothy Heller, a former friend, on Monday. In a response shared on Twitter, the 22-year-old singer wrote, "I am horrified and saddened by the statements and story told tonight by Timothy Heller." She continued,
UPDATE: Martinez released an additional statement on Twitter on Saturday, Dec. 9. It reads:
EARLIER: On Dec. 4, Heller posted a lengthy statement alleging Martinez had forced oral sex and penetrated her with a sex toy without permission. "When I wrote this story about my assault, I initially wasn’t going to make the abuser," Heller tweeted. "But I think it’s important for you all to know this is about Melanie Martinez." In her allegations made against Martinez, Heller wrote that she "repeatedly said no" on two different nights to the singer's alleged sexual advances and pleas made.
Heller told Newsweek on Tuesday that Martinez allegedly sexually assaulted her on June 25, 2015. Newsweek also reached out to Martinez's rep for further comment and received the following response: "Melanie stands by her statement."
In addition to denying Heller's claims, Martinez's statement is in conflict with her former friend's, because as she claims in her response to Heller's allegations, "She never said no to what we chose to do together." Per Heller, she did say no, but it's important to note that just because someone doesn't say the actual word "no" doesn't mean they are saying "yes".
This is something Heller touched upon multiple times in her Twitter statement. "I said every form of no I could think of," Heller alleged. After she claimed Martinez repeatedly asked to touch her boobs and allegedly said that nothing else had to happen, Heller claimed, "I was so exhausted and confused and high [they smoked marijuana that night at the request of Martinez, Heller claims] and belittled I just allowed it to happen." Heller then alleged, "This led to her touching the rest of me. I never said yes. I said no, repeatedly. But she used her power over me, and broke me down."
Heller further claimed,
According to Heller's claims, she said no and eventually just gave in because she was tired of fighting back. However, that doesn't mean she was consenting. A May piece from the Odyssey titled "She Didn't Say No, But She Didn't Say Yes: 28 Phrases Every Man Needs To Understand" explains it best. "It comes down to reading your partner's body language, responding to their verbal cues, paying attention to how they're feeling, asking them for their permission, and respecting their words," the article reads.
It then lists different phrases that translate as "no", including "I'm tired", "I have a boyfriend", and "Let's just go to sleep", all of which Heller claims she told Martinez. Per the Odyssey, "Silence means no", too. As Heller wrote, "Friendship does not equal consent. Silence doesn't equal consent."
Unfortunately, consent is a confusing matter for some to understand. Most everyone has heard the phrase, "No means no", but what about, "Yes means yes"? There is an actual "Yes Mean Yes" law that has been introduced to college campuses (including in Michigan, New York, and California) to set the standard for how consent is talked about. According to The Washington Post, "In matters of sex, silence or indifference aren’t consent. Only a freely given 'yes' counts. And if you can’t tell, you have to ask."
As RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) importantly explains about consent, "Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries." Furthermore, there is a manipulation tactic called "coerced consent", which is when someone says "no" repeatedly and gives in by saying "yes". When something happens in a scenario like that it can still be rape.
Consent is serious and just because someone says "no" or "yes" that doesn't necessarily mean they're giving permission. It's always important to communicate when it comes to any type of sexual act and to really understand how a partner is feeling.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.