Consent ‘conversations’ to be held for Freshers’ Week
They’re designed to encourage students to “ask questions and be more actively engaged”
Surveys reveal that nearly a third of female students experience some form of sexual harassment or assault at university.
Consent ‘conversations’ are to be held throughout Freshers’ this year in order to raise awareness on what consent means.
Whilst many universities have adopted consent workshops, Sheffield has decided to move away from the class/lesson delivery style often used to teach consent education.
Instead, Sheffield is seeking to promote consent through the use of informal talks during Freshers’ Week, including the use of consent awareness videos, such as ‘Tea Consent’.
Consent conversations have also been introduced, which will be carried out through halls starting in week four by residential mentors and student ‘consent champions’.
During Freshers’ Week last year, the Students’ Union trialled non-compulsory Consent Workshops, in the history, journalism and biomedical science departments. The Workshops were considered successful with many students from different backgrounds attending.
Women’s Officer, Serena Cavasin, told The Tab that the Union wanted to have “a wider reach to students” this year.
She said the reason why they have been rebranded to conversations was “to encourage people to ask questions and be more actively engaged”.
Serena says that the conversations will not be compulsory, partly because it’s still a pilot project but also because it would be “slightly contradictory to argue for the idea of consent…and then tell people that they don’t have a choice but to participate”.
Serena said that the both the Union and the University are “promoting a campus-wide consent campaign so that even the students that do not live in halls can be reached”, in part through the SU’s Zero Tolerance policy to Sexual Harassment.
The University Counselling Service and the SU Student Advice Centre do their best to support students who have experienced the trauma, and of course Sheffield Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre is always an option for them to go to if they wish to get external support.
On nights out, the Union has “safety stewards” that can be approached and assess if the student wished to make a formal complaint to the University or the Police. Serena stressed that complaints of harassment are taken “very seriously” by Union staff members.
Serena said that in the event that a student decides “not to take it any further, the University will try to acquire security footage when possible and store it as evidence in case the student decides to formally report at a later time”.
She also added that in her role as Women’s Officer, she is “in conversation” with institutions and organisations in order to set-up a support network for survivors of violence and assault which she hopes to “be able to launch it by the end of the semester.”
Over the past few years, the question of consent has become a prominent issue as a high proportion of students experience some form of sexual assault and relationship violence at uni.
In a survey conducted last year, half of girls at Sheffield said they had been sexually assaulted, with nearly a quarter saying they had been raped.