September 28 marked the beginning of #ConsentMcGill, a one-week campaign aimed at promoting consent throughout the McGill community. Among the many events on the agenda were a research symposium with various talks concerning consent, cyberviolence, love, and communication, a film screening of Flirting with Danger accompanied by a panel discussion, and an array of workshops addressing consent, sexual violence, and power dynamics.
“Our goal this year was to reach a group of people who would otherwise not get involved,” said McGill Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction) and main organizer of the event Bianca Tétrault, in an interview with The Daily.
According to Tétrault, who cited statistical research, about a third of the McGill student body does not engage in sexual activity, as such the promotion of consent in its broadest terms helps to reach out to a greater number of students. Also, the campaign had a presence both on the downtown and MacDonald campuses to ensure maximum outreach, and events such as the research symposium at the downtown campus were live-streamed at the MacDonald Campus.
Although #ConsentMcGill is only in its second year, its visibility has increased since its launch. Tétrault estimates that the Facebook group and its related events were viewed by three to four times more people than last year. The increased amount of student groups reaching out to the campaign results in more events being added to the agenda, and greater visibility of the campaign.
“Sexual violence is prevalent on college and university campuses. […] We can’t stay silent about it any longer.”
“It truly shocks me how complicated people make this idea of consent to be. […] It’s such a basic concept to grasp. Although there are obviously many different interpretations of this word, for me, consent is an active, sober, and verbal ‘yes,’ not the absence of a ‘no,’” said U0 student Dania Chatila.
U1 student Chelsea Oki-Gillan was enthusiastic about the events on the campaign’s agenda. She was especially interested in the “Trivia Night @ Gert’s” event because “it makes [consent] fun to learn about.” She also pointed out the importance of learning about consent at school by explaining that the first time she was introduced to a concrete definition of consent was in a high school sex education class.
According to Tétrault, the importance of the #ConsentMcGill campaign is twofold. Its first purpose is to help create meaningful conversations regarding consent. “When we come to university, we’re met with a whole bunch of new people, creating new relationships. People are coming from all over […] so how do we create a conversation where people are all on the same page as to what is a respectful, healthy relationship?”
At the same time, the campaign aims to reduce sexual violence and its traumatizing effects by creating a safe(r) space where students can discuss the issue, as well as their personal experiences. “Sexual violence is prevalent on college and university campuses. […] We can’t stay silent about it any longer.”c
However, Tétrault explains that the #ConsentMcGill campaign, being a discussion platform, is only one part of a larger vision. Other events are run throughout the year and Tétrault hopes #ConsentMcGill can increase their visibility. According to Tétrault, another event, Alcohol 2.0, is in the early stages of planning and should be launched in the coming years. Its goals will be to address the link between alcohol and consent, as well as create clear boundaries for students to follow.
The main area that Tétrault is aiming to augment in upcoming years is support. However, she is also open to other ideas. Tétrault explained that “instead of a top-down approach, [we’re] really working with the student body to see what they want, keeping in mind that this is just a platform for conversation.”