Consent Week: Destigmatising Myths about Sexual Harassment

Written by Paleeka Blackwolf, Student Ambassador for It Stops Here. This article contains content which some may find distressing. 

 

Working as lead student ambassador for the It Stops Here campaign, means part of my job is the management of our social media sites.

‘Consent is simple and everyone understands it.’

That single Twitter comment undermines an issue which affects countless individuals at King’s and beyond: Consent. This is exactly why KCLSU and the College launched the It Stops Here campaign: to challenge indifferent attitudes and raise the profile of sexual harassment and discrimination experienced within higher education.  

Unlike what was stated in that tweet, consent is not always simple, and comments like these which suggest that there is no need to inform staff and students of potentially dangerous situations, effectively dismisses anyone who has ever been a victim of sexual harassment or assault.

At first consent doesn’t seem like the most interesting of topics. I used to assume it was a straightforward yes or no, not fully understanding what it meant, simply because I had never been told.

However, during my first year at university, I was subject to a sexual assault by a close friend, where I had been incapable of consciously responding and making a decision for myself. In that situation, my friends failed to intervene because they didn’t know how to respond or understand that I didn’t want what was being done to me. The long term impact of that assault was horrific, I struggled socially, no longer felt comfortable going to club events, which was awful because previously, dancing had been a huge part of my life.

Whenever I look back to that event, I always end up thinking: I wish someone had known how to intervene in a situation like mine.

And that’s why consent matters.

Consent must be given by choice, by someone who has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

As part of the It Stops Here Campaign, and in light of the recent revelations within Hollywood, the College is celebrating Consent Week from the 27th November to 3rd December.

Consent Week aims to raise the profile and destigmatize the issue of consent and sexual harassment, by delivering interactive events such as the #metoo panel, #consentmatters panelActive Bystander training, as well as the Disclosure Response training for staff which seeks to allow the College community to learn more about consent, bystander intervention theory and practice. 

I used to think experiences like mine were isolated incidents, particularly because no-one seemed to know how to respond when I spoke about the assault. But after becoming more involved with the campaign, it came to my attention that 1 in 3 students experience sexual assault during university.

Consent is important because if anyone at King’s finds themselves or someone else in a situation involving the potential for sexual harassment, they need to be able to successfully and safely intervene.

To implement our vision and pledge, we have introduced Consent Matters; a new, online course that we are encouraging all students to engage with. Student participation is vital because whilst consent is more complicated than it may seem, the impact of sexual harassment and the role education plays in prevention of sexual violence is undeniable. Alongside this, is our Active Bystander training workshop: which aims to equip students with tools to safely intervene when faced with potentially hostile or abusive situations.

Disclosure Response Training for staff is also running by the Diversity & Inclusion team to help King’s staff know what to do when a student tells them about an incident of harassment or bullying. 

Finally, our #metoo panel and #consentmatters talk aim to discuss experiences and discuss perspectives of sexual harassment. I’m excited to be a panellist for the #consentmatters talk. These events address and normalise sexual harassment and assault, by emphasising the statistics and stories we’ve been seeing so frequently in recent media are real individuals and experiences with real scars left behind from sexual harassment.

Normalising and speaking out about sexual harassment is the first step in prevention, training and support for survivors.

Students can find out more information and advice at https://itstopshere.kcl.ac.uk/

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply