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Warwick SU: Consent on campus

Monday 22-02-2016 - 13:26

This is a guest blog from Chloe Wynne, Warwick SU Women's Officer.

 

Trigger Warning: sexual assault

A study from 2013 found that more than a quarter of all sexual assault victims didn’t confide in anyone about their ordeal, while 57% who told friends or family still didn’t take the next step and go to the police. When there is still widespread misunderstanding of these experiences - specifically regarding agency and who is at fault - it is of little surprise that so few come forward to divulge their experiences.

While I speak freely now about being assaulted in 2012, the perpetrator went unreported. When in my second year at Warwick in 2014 I fell prey to forceful sexual acts without my consent – in fact, in spite of my refusal to consent when I realised what was happening, the perpetrator again went unreported. From a victim’s perspective, it is easy to fall into the mindset of second-guessing – how can it be validated, or proved; will people believe you? It’s often only from reading about the experiences of others and comparing them to your own that victims are able to properly categorise their assaults as just that: assaults.

It’s a loaded term which connotes a certain type of attack between two strangers in a dark place. However, when we debunk these myths and overturn popular ideas of what constitutes ‘assault’, we can then hopefully begin see a decrease in the so-called ‘blurred lines’ of consent – together with an increase of reporting when assaults do happen.

This is what motivated me first to run for the position of Women’s Officer in my students’ union, and secondly to design a new consent campaign for my campus.

The images are deliberately provocative, containing sets of famous sexual invites in song lyrics from the likes of Beyonce, the Spice Girls and Donna Summer. The next line of the song is then changed to bring the issue of consent into the dialogue. The speakers are not assigned a gender or sexuality so as to avoid cisnormativity and heteronormativity. In this way, the passer-by recognises a lyric on the screen, digests it, hopefully can’t get the song out of their head, and then has a good think about what constitutes consent. They are also directed to a dedicated webpage, which explains the issue more widely and signposts viewers to support services: www.warwicksu.com/consent

Clearly, these images do not capture all the nuances of consent, and they should be followed up with a broader education, such as attendance of an I <3 Consent session. They are, however quirky, eye-catching and deliver the conversation about consent to a previously untapped audience. 

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