Enthusiastic Consent Campaign Launched by Nova Scotia student unions
Halifax, NS – Today, Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) and its partner student unions launched an education campaign to promote greater understanding of consent among students. The campaign features posters, stickers for condom wrappers and a website: morethanyes.ca. The website will be advertised on social media platforms around high-risk times (Friday nights, special school events) with a simple, powerful message: tentative responses such as “I guess” or even “…sure” are inadequate. Consent needs to be loud and clear.
“This campaign is sending the simple message that consent must be clear, confident, enthusiastic, or else it’s sexual assault”, said Callie Lathem, Acadia Students’ Union Equity Officer and Chair of the Review’s steering committee. “We are letting students know that there either is consent or there isn’t, and if it isn’t clear it absolutely isn’t there.”
“We hope this campaign will be informative about everyone’s responsibility to receive clear consent from their partner, without coercion, before engaging in sexual activity,” said StudentsNS Executive Director Jonathan Williams. “Seeking consent is not about avoiding a ‘no’, it’s about receiving an enthusiastic Yes.”
The campaign is informed by evidence from independent researcher Anne Martell’s Student Safety in Nova Scotia: A Review of Student Union Policies and Practices to Prevent Sexual Violence, released by StudentsNS in January. The Review’s most important finding was that consent is not well understood by students of all genders and this is a critical factor in many sexual assaults involving students.
“This campaign is supported by the findings of our independent review, with evidence from campuses across Nova Scotia”, said Allison Sparling, StudentsNS Campaigns Coordinator. “As many as 95% of campus sexual assaults occur between acquaintances. Our research finds better understanding of what constitutes consent could prevent some of these assaults from occurring.”
Development of the campaign and review was launched in August with funding from the Province of Nova Scotia. The participating student unions at Acadia, CBU, Dalhousie in Halifax and Truro, the Mount, StFX and SMU, as well as the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, each nominated a steering committee member to provide oversight for the campaign.
StudentsNS’ independent Review includes 21 recommendations for student union programming and advocacy to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence and foster communities where students respect and support each other. It is available online (http://studentsns.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-01-12-sexual-assault-report-Final.pdf). Funding has been made available for student unions to implement review recommendations, while StudentsNS is co-hosting a provincial conference in March with Acadia University and Students’ Union to identify further steps in implementing recommendations from this review and a second review on safe alcohol consumption to be released later in February.
“Thanks to these projects, Nova Scotia student unions are better prepared than ever to promote healthier cultures on our campuses”, said StudentsNS Chair Amy Brierley. “We are committed to continuing this work and enhancing the safety and wellbeing of our students and communities.”
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