Sexual assault: the facts
Sexual assault is more complicated — and prevalent — than many realize. Nationally, one in four university students experience some form of it during their post-secondary education. Many more crimes go unreported. This type of violence usually calls to mind a stranger in a dark alley, but the reality is far different: the vast majority of survivors know their aggressor.
Concordia is raising awareness about sexual assault, and is working to prevent it. Last November, the university established the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC), an initiative offering everything from crisis intervention and accompaniment to referrals and a resource room.
The centre also takes part in educational outreach activities. On Wednesday, February 12, as part of its first Mental Health and Wellness Week, Student Services is hosting a fair in the EV atrium; SARC will be among the groups hosting a kiosk, with a representative on hand to answer questions.
The resource centre sees this as one of many opportunities to start the consent conversation on campus. In the coming months, the SARC will be at other events, promoting healthy sexual relationships; it is also planning to launch an awareness campaign in February.
But what, exactly, constitutes sexual assault and what are the issues surrounding it? SARC coordinator Jennifer Drummond outlines the basics.
1. Sexual assault is a form of violence
“Sexual assault is any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact,” Drummond says. “This can include unwanted hugging, kissing, touching, penetration and more.”
2. Consent is crucial
To consent to a sexual activity is to agree to participate. What does that mean?
“The person needs to know what they are consenting to, and be free to make a decision about consent without force or the threat of force, and without psychological manipulation or intimidation.”
Furthermore, “Consent also needs to be continuous, so just because someone consented to one activity doesn’t mean that they are consenting to other sexual activities. By law, someone can’t give true consent if they are intoxicated, and consent cannot be given if someone is asleep.”
3. Communication is key
“Having communicative and consensual sex leads to a more fun and positive sexual experience.”
4. It’s not “don’t get raped” — it’s “don’t rape”
“Sexual assault prevention has traditionally focused its messaging towards women and what they can do to protect themselves from violence,” Drummond says. “This type of prevention approach tends to place the blame on those who are assaulted, which makes it even more difficult for survivors to come forward, to speak out and to get help.
“We need to shift the responsibility onto the perpetrators — or potential perpetrators — of sexual violence. The only person responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator.”
5. It’s time to get informed
“We aren’t taught how to talk about sex or how to tell our partners about what kind of sexual interaction, if any, we want to have. There is a need for more education about communication and setting and respecting boundaries, as well as practical tips for people to try out in their own lives.”
The Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Fair takes place on Wednesday, February 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Abe and Harriet Gold Atrium, Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (1515 Ste-Catherine St. W.) on the Sir George Williams Campus.
Want to volunteer with the Sexual Assault Resource Centre? Request an application form now. The deadline is Monday, February 10.