If you’ve walked past the Computer Learning Commons anytime this year, there’s a chance you might have seen people at a booth giving out free condoms and flyers advocating for safe sex. It’s not just a place for free condoms. This is the Yes Means Yes campaign. Its goal is to spread awareness of sexual consent and rape culture.
“We are living in a culture where everything is sexualized but no one is talking about it,” says Parastoo Sadeghein. Sadeghein, 27, is a Student Diversity assistant for Durham College’s Office of Student Diversity, Inclusion, and Transitions. She is also the head of the “Yes Means Yes” campaign on campus.
The campaign started last year but didn’t host many events until the following year. The goal is to help spread the word of consent and help students realise the dangers of rape culture.
According to SexAssult.ca, six out of every 100 sexual assaults are reported to police. Over 80 per cent of victims are women and 11 per cent of women who have been sexually assaulted have a physical injury from it. The most disturbing fact is that 80 per cent of the victims know their assailant personally.
“Consent is key,” says Sadeghein. Protecting students from potentially being sexually assaulted is very important. Sadeghein goes on to say that there is a fine line between yes and no. Consent can be giving and taken away within a matter of seconds. She says the important thing is to respect other people’s boundaries.
This is where the campaign comes in. Sadeghein says every time there is a booth, students ask questions: “Does this happen at Durham College?” “Are rape jokes part of rape culture?” “Where is the line drawn?”
Sexual assaults do happen on campuses. Yes Means Yes aims to give students the incentive not to do so and to learn that seemingly harmless actions can be considered sexual assault, such as giving someone an unwanted hug.
The campaign has recently been working on a mural. Students were asked to write down what consent means to them. So far more than 50 students have taken part.
When students were asked if they knew what the true intent of Yes Means Yes was, most said they’ve heard of it and many believe it is to learn consent and get free condoms.
“There is no acceptable answer, except if they say yes,” says Jessica Benoit,19.
When there was clarification on the intent of the campaign the students said it was a good idea. “I definitely think that they’ve impacted the students here at Durham College,” says Jesse Ross, 20, a student at Durham College.
There has been a bit of backlash associated with the campaign, according to Sadeghein she admits some students have said that by giving out condoms, the college is promoting sexual activities.
“We aren’t forcing students to do anything,” says Sadeghein. “We know that students engage in sexual activity, we just want to make sure that if they do, they do it safely.”
Yes Means Yes is closely connect to various resources for students including the Durham Rape Crisis Center, the Sexual Health Clinic and the Office of Student Diversity. Students can go to these places if they have been sexually assaulted.
For help, contact the following:
Oshawa Durham Rape Crisis Center -905 688 9200
Durham Regional Sexual Health Clinic – 905 420 8781
Student Office of Diversity, Transitions, and Inclusions http://www.durhamcollege.ca/services/services-for-students/diversity