Bright signs with bold, white lettering are posted on bulletin boards across campus. Some of them read “My dress is not a yes” and “It’s not consent if you make me afraid to say no.”
The campaign was created in partnership with the Campus Health Centre, Residence and the Office of Diversity, Inclusions and Transitions. It focuses on educating students about what consent means, the right to take back consent, and how to take ownership of one’s sexuality and sexual decisions.
“It’s all about empowering students to own their decisions around their sexual identity. To be proud of their sexual identity, to make healthy decisions around their sexual practices,” says Hector-Alexander, director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Transitions.
When sexual assault allegations came out against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to share their experiences of sexual harassment or assault on Twitter with #MeToo. In 2018, the focus on consent is just as prevalent due to high profile cases such as the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was accused of sexual misconduct when he was 17.
These incidents and the #MeToo movement have made consent top of mind over the past year.
“Consent transcends, it goes beyond just sexual violence. It is important to know people can give their consent but also they can take back that consent,” says Hector-Alexander. “Just because somebody gives consent this morning doesn’t mean this consent is valid this afternoon.”
Students can go to the Diversity, Inclusion and Transitions office to find resources and counselling. They can also visit to the Campus Health Centre or the Office of Campus Safety if they wish to make a formal complaint.
According to statistics on Ontario.ca, 1 in 3 women are the victims of sexual violence while 1 in 6 are men.
“Sometimes when we do talk about sexual violence, because such a large number of people who come forward as survivors sexual violence are women, sometimes, we forget about the men who are survivors,” says Hector-Alexander.
She says regardless of gender or sexuality, “consent doesn’t differ from person to person.” She says it’s important people know those in LGBT relationships can be victims too.
“The education still has to happen across the board of what consent looks like,” she says. “Consent isn’t this elusive thing. If students actually listen to each other in relationships or non-relationship situations, why are they not asking if this is OK?”
Durham College students have mixed feelings when it comes to how consent is taught.
“Parents are like ‘boys will be boys.’ With girls, we’re taught to protect ourselves, and for LGBTQ, there’s there’s not much to even begin with,” says Aurora Jantina Beaune, a Developmental Services Worker student.
Ryan Kirz, a Computer Systems Technician student says everyone has to mutually agree to what’s going on.
“Going through education where I lived, there was nothing towards LGBT at all. It was mostly geared towards women and slightly towards men, but there’s no representation for LGBT,” he says.
DC continues to highlight consent through multiple initiatives, including 16 Days of Activism and the Kiss for Consent campaign, according to Hector-Alexander. She wants students to know regardless of their relationship, gender or sexuality, consent is always necessary.
“Sometimes, people think, well, I’m in a relationship, there’s no need for that,” says Hector-Alexander. “They have a right to say I change my mind.”