LSPIRG is always trying to bring consent into our daily conversations! In past years on the Waterloo campus we have had coffee sleeves at Veritas Cafe, coasters at Wilf's, ads and posters around campus and the community. We hope these actions have started conversations in your offices, in your classrooms, or at your dinner table. This past year in Brantford we have welcomed ASCC (Advocates for a Student Culture of Consent) into the LSPIRG team when they joined as a working group! These folks are amazing and have been advocating on behalf of survivors, running consent campaigns, and even drafted Laurier's Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy. You can find out more about them here.
Consent needs to be part of our daily lives - let's make it part of every day discussion.
First, let's talk definitions:
Any unwanted act of a sexual nature. This includes sexual comments, cat-calling, kissing, touching, oral sex, anal sex, and vaginal sex.
This counts if the person is:
- a stranger
- someone you know
- a person you’re sleeping with
- your partner
Any action or conditions that put pressure on people to do things they don’t want to do. That could be bugging your partner to having sex, threatening to harm someone’s reputation if they do or do not have sex with you, pressure to be “normal” sexually or have a “normal” sex life, stereotypes of women with low sex drives as “prudes” or high sex drives as “sluts”, etc.
We also need to be conscious of the power imbalances that can exist. For example; a TA interacting with a student in a sexual manner can also lead to coercion as one could fear their marks may suffer if they don't "go along" with it.
More than saying yes or no. It’s about being able to fully communicate what you want and don’t want sexually without feeling afraid, pressured, or in any way coerced. Enthusiastic consent means not only should a person be free to say yes or no to sex, but that conditions should be present so that when they say “yes”, they mean yes!, and that a “no” is welcomed and respected. In order for enthusiastic consent to be a possibility, open and honest communication is required, even in the case of a one-time sexual encounter.
Looky here! A handy flow chart to make sure your next sexual encounter is enthusiastic and consenting! Whoa.
Note: consent while drinking can be a difficult thing. If an individual has only had a single drink (or even a few) they may be able to consent. However, alcohol and drugs affect everyone differently, and a single drink may be enough to remove the capacity for giving consent from someone else. Our suggestion? If you're into the person - take their number and call them when you're both sober. If it's your partner, have some discussions prior to drinking about what your personal limits and boundaries are.
How to make actual change right now!
- Don't use the word 'rape' to describe anything that is not actually rape
- Don't participate in victim-blaming conversations - and challenge those who do. Not sure what "victim-blaming" is? Well it's when you blame victims for what happened to them. Check out the next section below for more on why that's not okay.
- Have open and honest conversations with your sexual partners
- Get involved with campaigns, groups, or organizations that support survivors of sexual assault and challenge sexual assault myths
- Don't tell people how to avoid getting assaulted - instead tell people to stop assaulting
- Respect people's personal space. Ask before physically touching anyone. This includes when you are at the bar. No - No one likes it when they are grabbed without their consent. It's terrifying
- Don't mock when women, trans or non-binary folks go to the bathroom in groups. Pack mentality is a survival technique. Seriously. Think about it
- Accept and respect any 'no' that you hear. And the "I have a boyfriend" line is used because men seem to respect a man's ownership over someone more than a woman's right to say "no". Question why that is
- Stay away from the term "friendzone". Really. Friends are great to have. If you get mad that someone won't sleep with you and get upset that they think you are a friend - you really aren't a good friend and you should probably apologize
- At bars or on the street, keep an eye out for predatory behavior and give people an out who are being cornered. Invite them to come dance, pretend like you know them, whatever you can do to help them out! Try to get them alone for a second to ask if they need support - they may be more likely to take you up on the offer if the person is question isn't standing next to them.
Do not blame victims for the crime that happened to them. The onus of the crime is always on the perpetrator. It does not matter what someone was wearing, how they were acting, if they have been drinking, or their previous sexual experiences - nobody asks to be assaulted. You have the right to do what you want and wear what you want without experiencing or being in fear of sexual assault. The only person responsible for sexual assault is the assaulter.
When someone discloses they have been sexually assaulted:
- Tell them you believe them
- Assure them that their reaction is common and valid. However they are reacting. There is no wrong way to feel or act
- Do not try to make decisions for them. They've already had power taken away from them, do not continue to take that away from them.
- Press for details (you aren't on CSI and you really don't need to know)
- Ask them what they did to cause the assault
- Pressure them to go to the hospital or police (it is their decision)
- Try to fix everything or take over - you are there to listen and be supportive. That's it.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted:
Sexual Violence Support Advocate
MacDonald House Residence R. 117
Sarah Scanlon - email@example.com
SASC 24-Hour Support Line: 519 741 8633
Sexual Violence Counselor and Advocate
95 Darling St. 2nd (Top) Floor
Hayley Moody - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sexual Assault Centre of Brant
211 Brant Ave. Brantford, ON
SAC 24 hour Crisis line - 519-751-3471