Consent Awareness Week at Laurier
Many institutions across Canada, Wilfrid Laurier University included, have adopted the third week in September as Consent Awareness Week.
The gender based violence prevention initiative, Courage To Act, defines Consent Awareness Week as a time for conversation. “This week is a significant opportunity to reflect, champion, and celebrate consent as a cornerstone of all relationships, not just intimate ones.”
While the week is not officially acknowledged on a national level – Consent Awareness Week has still managed to resonate deeply with Canadians.
“I think it’s important because unfortunately the conversation of consent is still sometimes difficult for some folks to wrap their heads around because it does tend to lead us into conversations about things like sexuality, boundaries, and negotiating what works for us,” Jennifer Root, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Work, said.
Knowledge surrounding consent in a sexual context is especially important to universities as a time period coined “The Red Zone” effects many students.
“The Red Zone” refers to the first six weeks of the school year, where 50 per cent of all sexual assaults on campuses take place. The MeToo movement credits this increase in sexual violence to institutions lack of “effective preventative measures.”
“There is a real need to do this as early as possible in the term for students, because we know that majority of students will see some form or experience some form of sexual violence…” said Root.
In previous years, education surrounding consent was not always as prevalent.
“I think peoples’ ideas around consent have changed a lot from when I was in high school … today, the thinking seems to have somewhat changed to more of a focus on affirmative consent …” Andrew Welsh, Associate Professor of Criminology and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, said.
There is a real need to do this as early as possible in the term for students, because we know that majority of students will see some form or experience some form of sexual violence.Jennifer Root, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Work,
This year, Laurier took a proactive approach; consent Awareness Week fell the week before Laurier’s Homecoming.
“Just an event like [homecoming] is an important reminder why something like consent week is pretty valuable,” Welsh said.
Along with providing resources on consent and sexual awareness, which can be found on the university’s website, Laurier also had various events, information sessions and activities for Consent Awareness Week. Many of which were student-run.
“I would certainly credit the students who really saw this [consent awareness] as a need for our campus culture,” Root said.
To begin the events, Laurier’s Consent is Golden team created a video surrounding intimate relationships and how to approach them in a healthy way. The animated short can be found on the group’s Instagram.
On Monday, Laurier’s Gendered Violence Prevention and Support Team led an online workshop about bystander intervention regarding dealing with harm.
Tuesday and Wednesday marked ‘We Believe Survivors Day’ on the Waterloo and Branford campuses respectively.
“To my mind, having an event like ‘we believe survivors’ or a rally or some sort of awareness raising event remains really important … I really do think that these student-led intentional spaces are important in order to talk about consent,” Root said.
Events planned by the Laurier Students’ Union closed out Consent Awareness Week.
Banging Brunch Talk consisted of a presentation by sexual violence prevention and harm reduction coordinator at Algonquin College, Sarah Crawford. The presentation covered topics ranging from anatomy andconsent to sex.
Additionally, a rally aimed to bring awareness took place on both campuses. The Waterloo campus rally drew attention from bystanders as the Quad was taken over by those supporting Consent Awareness Week.
“More than ever I think it’s important that we start to really normalize conversations of consent…We really [need to] create a culture where the idea of consent is just part of our everyday lives,” Root said.