Learning Consent

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Words || Yasaman Rowshanbaksh

Consent (noun): permission for something to happen

This is common sense stuff right? Don’t touch or do something to anyone unless you have their permission to do so. Yet, the president of a powerful, first-world country has sexually harassed women on multiple occasions, and openly admitted to ‘grabbing pussy’. The power given to this perpetrator is truly scary. But how does something like this happen? Why does it continue to happen?

Sometimes, the world is so disheartening. It can make us feel as though we are powerless to stop the bad things from happening, and are too small and inconsequential to make a real change. However, every single one of us can do something significant. It is not about pointing fingers. It is not about blame. It’s actually about:

Learning More About One Another: How can we ensure that we are giving each other the respect that is deserved by all parties (including ourselves)? How does media, gender, alcohol and drugs influence our view on sexual violence and relationships?

Destroying Stereotypes: Consent is not just verbal, it can be non-verbal too. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, at any time. Life is not just about the binary categories. Strangers are not the only people who can do harm.

Learning How to be an Active Bystander: How can we safely intervene in ways we are comfortable with?

Bringing Together our Diversity and Differences: In a time where differences are tearing us apart, we need to prove that being different is actually a powerful learning tool.

Learning About Support Services: Both in and out of the Macquarie Uni campus!

In response to the disturbing findings in the Change the Course report, released on August 1st 2018, the university is providing opportunities for all Macquarie University students to receive face-to-face education in the form of two workshops, regarding topics such as respectful relationships, consent and affirmative consent, sexual ethics, and how to take positive action in situations that may involve sexual assault and/or sexual harassment.

These workshops are about empathy. They’re about learning how to hear stories from individuals who have experienced sexual violence in a respectful, kind and safe manner that does not cause greater harm. At times, sexual harassment and sexual violence seem like distant things that happen to unfortunate others, in dark, dingy corners of the world. It sometimes seems implausible that it can occur on an open and often beautiful university campus in 2018. But it does.

The only way to change the harmful culture, and the existence of sexual harassment and assault, is to make sure the population is appropriately educated. This is what the planned workshops aim to do. Through education, we are hopeful that all students and staff will learn about sexual violence, and how we can create a safer environment for everyone by becoming active bystanders. People in power should no longer abuse their positions by making others feel unsafe. Enough is enough, and this is why we’re educating and advocating for change.

These workshops are beneficial for all. Lolly bags aside (which are handed out each session), registering and participating in both workshops will lead to a letter of completion from the university, which will be an asset to any resume. The workshops concern aspects relevant to most of our lives – whether they be campus life, work life, or everyday-life. Workshop One (Definition and Drivers) focuses mainly on what sexual harassment is and how consent and sex are interpreted through legal, social science, and community health perspectives. Workshop Two (Impact and Intervention) gets into the nitty gritty of action, and discusses what individuals can do and how they can raise awareness within their own networks and communities. The workshops are all led and implemented by one lead facilitator, and a peer educator from the University.

The best part is, these workshops are completely free. If you ever have any questions regarding the workshops, RNA, or support available to students, please do not hesitate to contact the team through respect@mq.edu.au.

We hope to see you at the workshops!
Register online @ mq.edu.au/respect