Creating a dialogue about consent for first-year students

Photo by Luke Sarazin

On Sept. 6, in the heart of Orientation Week, Wilfrid Laurier University hosted Mike Domitrz, founder of the Date Safe Project, author of Can I Kiss You and public speaker. Domitrz gave an informative presentation on consent and its concomitants.

Date Safe Project is an organization which has the mission statement to prevent sexual assault and promote healthy intimacy and safe dating.

Universities have always fostered an environment where sexual assault, harassment and/or abuse can regularly thrive and occur. It’s deplorable, but not unfixable.

During his presentation, Domitrz laid out scenarios – centered around parties and focused on drinking – where first-years could identify the looming danger of an assault.  He went on to provide some tips on how to prevent these scenarios as well.

“Offer to help take care of the [inebriated] person and help them get home,” Domitrz said, emphasizing that if someone isn’t of sound mind, then they can’t give consent.

Intervention is a crucial part of prevention. If it seems like a sober person is taking advantage of someone, don’t stand by and don’t be afraid of conflict.

He then went on to clearly explain what consent was, to avoid any confusion.

There are several resources available for students at Laurier if they need professional support. There’s Male Allies, which can assist with men who have experienced sexual assault. There’s also the Sexual Assault Support Center of Waterloo Region, which collaborates with Laurier.

“Consent is: ongoing, in the moment, enthusiastic and mutually wanted agreement between partners who are of legal age and sound mind.”

“In the moment means, if we [had sexual intimacy] on the Wednesday, that doesn’t mean we’re going to do it again. Ongoing means that if we are in the moment and I happen to change my mind and say no, you can’t object,” Domitrz explained.

Domitrz kept the mood lighthearted while speaking on consent. Calling attention to the fact that while engaging in safe and healthy intimacy, consent is always the best route.

“Wouldn’t it feel so much better if you knew that the person liked you?” Domitrz asked as he explained the magnitude of benefits of asking for a kiss rather than simply taking one.

“It takes out the guess work … and it makes it more intimate.”

It’s less fumbling and more engaging if both parties know they’re about to be kissed. Plus, what’s better than knowing that the person you want to kiss wants to kiss you back?

Domitrz gave a short demonstration on how to properly ask for a kiss.

“When you’re alone with that person, look them in the eye, but don’t be creepy. Smile, be yourself. Don’t change your voice, don’t flip your hair a million times, just be yourself.”

And of course, don’t forget the magic words. Can I kiss you?

However, the genial tone did come to an end as Domitrz spoke about the difficult truth of sexual assault.

It’s estimated that one in three Canadian women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. As well, with sexual assault cases reported, over 80 per cent are women. These are frightening statistics that don’t seem to be lowering.

No one comes to university with the plan to be assaulted, however it is a scary truth that there’s a possibility of it happening.

This is why Domitrz’s presence during O-Week was so paramount. Opening a dialogue about assault and consent can provide students with tools to prevent and ideas of how to help.

He encouraged students to repeat these words to their loved ones and friends:

“‘If anyone ever has or ever does sexually touch you against your will or without your consent, I am always going to be here for you.’ Those words can open the door for survivors to come forward.”

“If they do come forward, listen and don’t say you’re sorry. Instead, say ‘thank you for sharing. Clearly you are strong and courageous. What can I do to help?’”

There are several resources available for students at Laurier if they need professional support. There’s Male Allies, which can assist with men who have experienced sexual assault. There’s also the Sexual Assault Support Center of Waterloo Region, which collaborates with Laurier.

There will never be a moment where you owe or are owed sexual intimacy. So, ask the question and respect the answer.

Asking for consent isn’t a scary prospect, it’s what happens when there’s a lack of it that should frighten us.

One Comment

  1. This is a great article, informative about the event, but also about the topic and resources available to those affected. Thank you for this!

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