A new initiative aimed at raising awareness of the importance of sexual consent has been launched by the Students’ Union (SU). Dee Courtney, one of the founders of the initiative, spoke to Trinity News about their plans.
According to Courtney, an SU working group concluded that College’s Dignity and Respect Policy does not “sufficiently acknowledge sexual assault as a systematic problem on campus.” In an effort to right this, the group is developing a new framework to replace the existing policy, which they intend to present to College in October. Courtney also criticised College’s approach to dealing with interpersonal issues, including sexual harassment, whereby they begin with mediation between those involved. This, she claimed, is highly inappropriate treatment for those who have experienced sexual assault.
The group hopes that an extensive publicity campaign will help to build awareness of the need for students to fully understand the meaning of the word ‘consent.’ Particular attention will be paid to incoming first year students. Each student will receive a specially focused information leaflet on consent and a campus wide poster campaign will take place. They also plan to set up a support group for survivors of sexual assault on campus.
In January, an SU survey on sexual assault revealed that one in four female students and one in 20 male students in Trinity have had a non‐consensual sexual experience. Courtney explained that while the survey certainly acted as a “catalyst” for the formation of the working group, inspiration was also drawn from similar movements in universities across the world, including Oxford and Cambridge, which have introduced mandatory consent workshops for first year students.