Carina Gabriele has made sexual consent education a priority during her term as Student Programs Officer as research shows that university students are most likely to experience sexual assault within the first eight weeks of school. “Due to this information, we really wanted to ensure that students clearly understand affirmative consent and that they are educated from the moment they step on campus,” says Gabriele.
With this goal in mind, Gabriele sought out ways to ensure that Orientation week included productive conversations around the topic. She settled on the idea of brightly coloured consent buttons that were distributed to both orientation leaders and the 5000 incoming first-year students in an effort to initiate conversations around consent. In addition to the buttons, the USC researched and created an infographic made in collaboration with multiple campus and community partners. The infographic campaign was circulated throughout Orientation week, and consent awareness weeks during the academic year.
Tamara Will, The Sexual Violence Prevention Education Coordinator at Western played a crucial role in the development of the buttons and infographic. Gabriele emphasized the importance of proper consultation with community partners. “Integrating a collaborative community approach to the research and analysis of this project was integral to its success. We have multiple phenomenal community members on campus and in London that are experts in this field and we wanted to ensure they were consulted.”
Student leaders were incredibly responsive to the initiative. Connor Cozens former Science Soph and current Associate Vice President Orientation speaks to the effectiveness of the initiative. “Something that I feel very strongly about in my position as a student-facing leader is fostering and supporting an environment where everyone can feel safe. This can only be done through the creation of an environment where we feel comfortable having open conversations about consent, and how it affects us, and everyone around us.” Many sophs chose to wear the buttons on their bags to hopefully create a dialogue around the proper consent model. “Wearing a consent button on my bag promotes awareness and opens the door for conversations surrounding sexual health,” says Cozens.
Students seeking support should access https://safecampus.uwo.ca/ where additional resources can be found.
Click here to view the consent infographic created for Orientation Week.