But since we’re here, let’s discuss the fact that an “undefined relationship” is not an excuse for failing to define consent.
Sienna Mae Gomez, an 18-year-old influencer recently hit with major legal and social heat over an alleged sexual assault, has released several YouTube videos, as well as a lengthy Medium.com statement depicting “her side.”
There are a few things that need to be brought to light about this story.
Sexual Assault survivors need to be believed.
This is a tricky subject. What about if accusations turn out to be false, people may ask. But allegations have been made here and we have spent a long time building the culture of how to properly support survivors.
Jack Wright made a YouTube video, now at over 9 million views, titled “What Sienna Mae Did to Me” and it appears that both parties have legal representation.
I cannot fault the young influencers for wanting to speak out, but at this point, we need to be careful about the material that gets produced by them and others.
I don’t know if making a YouTube video was the right choice- I’d rather have seen this be taken directly to court first, but this video exists now so we can’t just pretend it away.
An “Undefined” relationship is not an excuse for failing to honor boundaries.
Both parties have hinted toward an “undefined” relationship. Sienna Mae reveals in her statement that she fell in love with friend and TikTok collaborator, Jack.
The truth is, that’s an irrelevant detail that is potentially more damaging than helpful, especially if Sienna Mae wants to clear her name.
But since we are here, this needs to be said; Whether anything romantic was occuring between these two young adults, anything non-consensual should be considered criminal.
“I’m being called a rapist across the internet by those who don’t understand the meaning of the word,” Sienna stated on Medium.
Let’s go ahead and define Rape and Sexual Assault, as she makes a good point. Not everyone knows what the terms mean, including, it seems, Sienna.
When we refer to rape, that regards sexual activity without consent, and is typically talking about intercourse or attempted forced intercourse.
However, any sexual physical contact without consent is Sexual Assault
While people absolutely make mistakes and cross boundaries this conversation runs a severe risk of becoming unfruitful and damaging to both parties. I’d specifically hope Sienna Mae’s legal team would be advising her of this, both for the case and any hope she has of recouping her reputation.
Sienna addressed Jack in her statement talking about how she was sorry if anything physical that occured made him uncomfortable.
“There is a distinct line between that and sexual assault,” Sienna writes.
If you get anything from this, please know there is no distinction between that and sexual assault.
I cannot speak to the specifics of what occurred, because even after watching several videos, it’s hard to get a full picture. But what I do see is that instead of focusing on her own statement, she’s gaslighting Jack. And even if she is innocent here, that’s unnacceptable and unwise.
She has come out on video suggesting that he was actually sexually assaulted by someone else, and she downplays his accusations as a potential “misunderstanding” on his part.
It’s all becoming very problematic and it’s upsetting to see this serious case be casually flung into the world, especially the portion of the world occupied by young adults who may not be educated on this subject.
Here’s a part of this story many will find confusing:
They were romantically involved at some point, weren't they?
This potential speculation is important for a few reasons- Sienna’s main defense appears to be that she loved Jack and that anything occurring between them was consensual and meant only with love.
But we do know that they were physical with one another as we have significant video footage of the two in their collaborative videos.
So, can we use that as a clue to try to argue that things must have been consensual?
No. And here’s why.
This case truly illustrates a widely misunderstood issue within many sexual assault cases. Sexual assault is not always an aggressive power-hungry man putting a drug in a woman’s drink and violently raping her. More often than not, it occurs in close relationships, and this one is a bit of a landmark case.
This is an 18-year old young man coming forward to say that boundaries were crossed. He doesn’t say it casually; he cites experiences of having Sienna Mae enter his home without permission, and he explains that she has taken advantage of him while he was not even conscious.
Was it Jack’s responsibility to let Sienna Mae know in advance that he thought she was abusive?
Sienna Mae argues in one of her videos that if Jack did have a problem with her he should have brought it up, acted upset…let her know.
And in a perfect world, that’s great.
But the reality of sexual violence is that it’s scary. As a young man, Jack bears an even less common narrative. Anyvictim would have a hard time confronting their abuser, especially if it was a friend/colleague.
It also seems likely that Jack did not even identify the behavior as Sexual Assault until much later.
He specifically talks about confronting Sienna Mae about her behavior many times, seeming to take a long time to understand the depravity of groping an unconscoius person and trying to write it off as just “annoying” behavior.
Should you walk away from a relationship that feels abusive? Absolutely, but this is a complicated issue and should not be addressed as a casual experience of a teenage boy failing to “say no” to abuse. If abuse occurred, that is the mistake and it does not fall on Jack. To suggest otherwise is victim-blaming.
So, now what?
These two young people are out of their comfort zones and more importantly, they are clearly beyond their ability to cope both emotionally, mentally, and legally.
I pray that they are being given resources for mental health and I wish they’d take a pause from social media.
This is not just potentially damaging for these two influencers, but for the people they influence.
This subject is not a joke. It’s not casual, and it’s not being spoken about in a scholarly way here.
To those following the case, especially if you are young, please read and discern carefully. Learn about what sexual violence is and be careful before you make rash decisions.
This case could easily continue to flood the internet- the one channel these influencers seem to understand as a means for sharing “their side” but we have to shift this actual criminal case into court and stop pretending it’s a he-said-she-said.
This cavalier attitude toward what happened here is part of what leads to damaging statements and mobs made of angry fans.