MONTREAL – When walking into Concordia University, there’s a team educating students about sexual consent, what it means and why it’s non-negotiable.
“It’s quite the epidemic that is happening,” said student Christina Marie Phelps.
“Not just in North America, but all over the world, no means no.”
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Concordia has joined 15 Quebec universities in bringing education to the next level with a new campaign “Sans Oui, C’est Non,” or “Without a Yes, it’s No.”
The province-wide campaign will target 200,000 students and 50,000 employees, focusing on overt physical assault, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual conduct.
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Some students arrive on campus, living away from home for the very first time.
They are often overwhelmed and under-informed.
“They are coming into that context with no education about sexual communication, no education about consent,” said Jennifer Drummond with Concordia’s sexual assault resource centre.
“Not knowing much about sexual violence or what sexual assault looks like.”
Sue Montgomery, who started the hashtag campaign #beenrapedneverreported, said we need to be educating students at a much younger age.
“I think it’s too late,” Montgomery said.
“These kids have already been having sex for three, four, five years and they have already established their non-consensual habits, it’s pretty hard to change when you get to university.”
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As for students, reaction was mixed.
“It’s important that it’s part of our everyday language and having other people looking out for you,” said Christina Marie Phelps.
Adam Luxemberg disagreed, saying campaigns don’t have a big impact.
“I don’t think it will help, there have been so many campaigns,” he said.
“Intentions are right, but I don’t think it will help per se.”
Still, there’s hope that sexual consent campaigns will create a cultural shift within universities on how to react.