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So, what actually happens in Sussex consent workshops?

They’re always happening on campus – but what ARE they and why do they matter?

Consent workshops throughout the UK

Consent workshops; we know they exist, roughly what they are, but no one ever seems to go to them. Statistically, the likelihood of females being subjected to sexual assault and unwanted advances at university is astronomically high – thus the need for establishing such workshops in the first place.

Data from The Tab's Sexual Assault Survey 2017 suggests that 84 per-cent of Sussex students believe that consent classes should be mandatory prior to university level, despite 81 per-cent of students never having been to one.

Realistically, consent to both sex and sexual advances is an issue everywhere – especially in Brighton given that last year, 28 per-cent of students said they had witnessed sexual assault.

The I Heart Campaign at Sussex leads workshops and events centering on educating all students who have a keen interest in learning about consent – the campaign tries to be as inclusivist as possible with regards to who it is aimed towards.

Focusing on creating a positive environment and atmosphere in which students can openly discuss their opinions on consent, the workshops want as many socities to take part as possible so that consent awareness is widespread throughout the Sussex student community.

The I Heart Consent campaign tackles educating students on the boundaries of sex and relationships

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Much in line with Sussex and Brighton's ethos of being a happy, friendly and welcoming place; the I Heart Consent Campaign focuses on directing that ethos towards establishing consensual sexual relationships between student and student alike.

The campaign addresses the need for these workshops on the SU website; "In the UK, sexual consent is currently not a fundamental aspect of mainstream sex and relationship education. One of the consequences of this is that the message of consent is not communicated as an essential part of all sexual interactions.

So, what do consent workshops actually entail?

I went to one to find out if consent shops are actually worth attending, or simply reiterating guidance we should all know (but not all of us follow).

The workshop consisted of myself and four other attendees, guided by two postgraduate students. Myself included, it was an all female group bar one – but thankfully everyone in the group had a very understanding and open mindset.

We sat and introduced ourselves in a circle before completing an exercise discussing what consent is and isn't. After discussing ideas with the other people in the group and looking at legal definitons I certainly had my eyes opened.

We also sat and chatted about myths of sexual assualt and consent – and despite the lack of diversity in gender within the group the discussion was very much tailored towards all genders and sexualities.

After 45 minutes, the discussion was over and we went our separate ways with hopefully a more open and informed mind on the subject of consent.

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Why bother having consent workshops? Because sexual assault at university remains a real issue

According to a 2015 Telegraph report, "a third of female students in Britain have endured a sexual assault or unwanted advances at university and 1 in 8 men have also been subjected to groping or unwanted advances. It is clear that something needs to change."

The Telegraph continue by saying "Learning about consent is also vital to identifying sexual assault and supporting survivors of sexual assault by outlining and understanding that sexual activity without consent is a crime for which only the perpetrator can be blamed."

However, the willingness to attend such workshops on such a fundamentally important aspect of student life is very minimal. In fact, just last year no freshers from Clare College in Cambridge bothered to turn up to their compulsory workshop despite suggestions that in 2014, sexual assault rates were as high as one in thirteen women reported as having experienced sexual assault.

So… was attending worth it?

Even as someone who would like to consider themselves very aware as to the boundaries of consensual and non-consensual sex, I still found it an eye opening experience. Not only for myself and evaluating what is regarded as inappropriate sexual behaviour towards myself, but also in terms of educating myself on how to help peers who may have been in similar situations.

The experience was reminiscent of a general discussion with friends as opposed to a lesson or lecture as I had expected it to be. Although a lot of information that was shared was covering things that ultimately should be common sense, they covered important and vital topics that perhaps not be so needlessly reiterated if the perpetrators of non consensual crimes actually attended such workshops in the first place.

I would advocate that every university student, no matter how much they think they know, attend a consent workshop at least once in their university career; even if just to reiterate what should be common knowledge.