Trigger Warning – discussion of abuse, violence, assault
We have some exciting things coming up this term, including our first Consent Week, organised for the 10th-16th of February, and of course International Women’s Day, which is March 8th.
‘Consent’ has been one of the main focusses of our Association this year so far, as we have been trying to raise awareness and promote the importance of consent in sexual activity, both within and without of relationships, to address the problematic culture where the 1 in 7 women students sexually assaulted during their time at University go unnoticed, and the everyday harassment and sexism faced by women students goes unchallenged. Of course this encompasses everything from unwanted groping on a night out to abusive relationships to domestic violence and assault – all of which are present on and around our campus. We want to use this week to get the word out about these things, spread ideas about consent, and give people fora to discuss them, learn about them, and get support relating to them.
In case you missed it, here’s the Women’s Association’s practical guide to consent:
“Consent is mandatory. 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and 1 in 7 women students during their time at university. And before we start, a few things need to be made clear: being sexually assaulted or raped is not something you can “ask for”, “enjoy”, “lead someone on to” or “deserve”. Our society seems to endorse rape culture, the collection of attitudes and reactions that protect and even to try justify the rapist rather than their victim. You’ll probably think that’s an exaggeration, no one seriously condones rape. But in fact, the very questions and comments on people’s lips illustrate the ingrained victim-blaming culture which is so harmful to survivors and rape prevention.
For example, commenting on the clothing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity of the person who was raped shows that we subconsciously think that person could have prevented their rape, or that they somehow encouraged it. The lack of focus on or investigation into the rapist’s background, past, manipulative tendencies, demonstrates a societal willingness to understand, to accept such actions: “well, she was flirting all night so no wonder he couldn’t help himself” for instance, even though the action in itself goes against all moral value, our culture makes the victim responsible for their own rape. But culture can change, if each individual educates themselves on the issue, respects their body and others’, challenges victim-blaming and creates a consent culture around them, we have a chance of making sexual violence a thing of the past.
So keep that in mind, if you’re hoping to have sex tonight, make sure your partner consents, and if not, respect their decision and their body!”
Throughout Consent Week, we will be putting on different workshops (with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid) about recognising abusive relationships, on harassment and stalking, and on consent, as well as support groups on those issues. We’re looking into having some sort of separate Abuse/Assault Survivor speak-out event on top of that where people can write their experiences down and share them around anonymously. At the moment there is no real structure for survivors to talk about what they’ve lived through with others or even know where to turn for help or support on campus, and I think it’s really important to deal with these issues and give people a space to explore them and meet others who are or have been in similar circumstances. At the moment I am looking into the possibilities of setting up regular/long-term support groups for survivors on campus; no promises but I’ll keep you posted!
We also have a film-viewing and round table discussion of ‘Miss Representation’ planned, which is a film about the way in which women are portrayed and often objectified in the media – the aim being to explore the cultural aspects behind objectification and gender roles because they feed in to and create gendered violence. A couple more of our events are awaiting confirmation – such as a black women’s caucus – but as soon as we have that all sorted posters will be out so don’t miss them.
Look out for our ‘This is Abuse’ posters, stalls and white ‘Say NO To Violence Against Women’ ribbons during that week and in the run up to IWD!
If you’d like to be involved at all in the organisation or any of the events, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com or come and see us at tea and coffee on Tuesdays.
EDIT: The expression ‘Consent is Hot, Assault is Not’ was removed from the article as a point was raised by a member of the Association as trivialising consent, which is definitely not what this campaign aims to do. Sign ups are open at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/consent-week-workshops-tickets-10295761901!