Compulsory sexual consent workshops introduced for freshers

Ellie Hayward 26 September 2014

The Freshers’ week timetable at over half of Cambridge colleges will feature a new addition this year: sexual consent workshops.

Twenty colleges will be holding consent talks and workshops, which will be run by individual JCRs as part of the CUSU Women’s Campaign.

The workshops are in response to widespread evidence pointing to endemic sexual violence among university students, and come after a survey last year revealed the extent of the problem in Cambridge.

The survey – ran jointly by the Women’s Campaign and Varsity – found that over 46% of women students at Cambridge had been groped, 8.4% had experienced attempted penetration and 4.4% had been seriously sexually assaulted.

The CUSU Women’s Officer, Amelia Horgan, commented: “Sexual assault isn’t something you can label as being ‘worse’ at some universities than others.

“However, the specific context of our university, with small college year groups, often populated with socially dominant all-male drinking societies who see misogyny and sexual harassment as ‘just banter’ makes coping, let alone reporting, all the more difficult for survivors of sexual violence.”

She hopes the consent workshops will “combat pernicious myths about sexual violence” and send out a clear message that sexual violence will not be tolerated, as well as highlight the routes that students should take to report sexual violence and harassment.

Rhiannon Lloyd Jones is the Women’s Officer at Girton JCR, and will be running a large mixed-gender group session in Freshers’ week, as well as smaller, optional sessions throughout the term.

She explained: “The workshop centres around a discussion of what we mean by consent, how we define it and how consent is shown.

“We then run through a series of different scenarios where we introduce and bust various rape myths. Students are encouraged to engage with these issues, and we want the session to be an open and safe space without anyone feeling marginalised.”

The following colleges will be running sexual consent talks or workshops: Emmanuel, Girton, Jesus, Trinity Hall, King’s , Churchill, Fitzwilliam , St Catherines, Murray Edwards, Clare, Pembroke, Gonville and Caius, Magdalene, Robinson, Homerton, St Johns, and Corpus. TCS is told that three more have also signed up.