Campus groups unite to promote sexual consent awareness

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A group of student organizations and University offices have collaborated on a campus-wide campaign to educate the University community on issues surrounding sexual consent.

The student-initiated campaign — led by the Women’s Community Center (WCC), Men Against Abuse Now (MAAN), the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) and Sigma Theta Psi Multicultural Sorority — was launched at the start of this quarter to facilitate an active discourse on the subject, according to MAAN Co-President Jake Winkelman ’15.

“The idea behind it was that there are conversations had about sexual assault on campus but there isn’t always space for discourse just about consent, or having a more positive constructive conversation about consent,” Winkelman said.

To date, the campaign has mainly consisted of a brief emailed survey that asks what it means to give consent, and what it means to ask for it.

Surabhi Nirkhe ’13, social justice outreach coordinator at the WCC, said the survey has received 40 to 50 responses for each question.

“We’ve been getting a diverse range of responses,” Nirkhe said. “Initially [there were] a lot of responses that I guess you could say we support based on the stance of the Women’s Community Center and MAAN has on the issue.”

Responses are subsequently uploaded to a WordPress site, where students can read and comment on posted responses as well as add their own perspectives on consent.

“By asking students how they give consent, how they ask for it, it really encourages them to think critically about how they engage with consent and sexuality,” said Sarah Roberts ’16, a WCC staffer.

Angela Exson, director of the SARA office, pointed out that survey responses might have applications beyond simply encouraging student discourse and reflection, through allowing staff and administrators to assess progress and determine areas for improvement in dealing with consent-related issues.

“If we don’t have this common understanding or common ground around what consent is and what it entails, then it makes it more difficult for us to understand when boundaries are being crossed,” Exson said.

In the future, campaigners hope to add more content and interactive material to the website in addition to hosting some events.

“Hopefully this is the spark that starts the conversation, and we’d like to do more forms of outreach later on,” Nirkhe said.

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