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UoN Students Rally Together To Demand Consent Lessons

Consent Rally
Córa-Laine Moynihan

The University of Nottingham branch of a national charity that teaches sex education to young people led a campaign rally on Tuesday 25th October 2022 to demand that the university needs to deliver mandatory consent training to all students. Impact’s Córa-Laine Moynihan reports.

The rally followed an open letter that Sexpression Nottingham shared in August to highlight the need for mandatory consent training at the university and ask for more support on top of the current sexual misconduct policies and procedures in place. The open letter has currently received over 500 signatures.

When asked why they are pushing for these lessons in an interview with Impact, Sexpression President, Lucy Johnson, and General Secretary, Ellis Turner, said: “There are so many forms of boundaries and consent that people don’t really know. Like hugging someone and posting images on social media. People don’t really check. People think consent is unsexy.”

Everyone needs to be on the same page

Johnson and Turner referenced statistics included in their open letter to emphasis the prevalence of sexual abuse on campus and to further highlight the need for consent lessons. The following statistics were mentioned:

  • 82 sexual violence incidents were reported in the academic year of 2020 – 2021 (Nottingham Post, 2021).
  • Only 59% of students are ‘very confident’ about what ‘constitutes sexual consent’ (HEPI, 2021)
  • Only 30% are ‘very confident’ about how to navigate sexual consent after introducing alcohol (HEPI, 2021)

They further added that as a student community, everyone needs to be on the same page and have a strong understanding of consent – particularly when alcohol is involved.

Starting at 12:00pm on Tuesday, the branch was joined by fellow students in a march across the University Park Campus that began at Trent Building and was followed by a wellbeing session at the Liberation Hub in Portland Building. There, students wrote their feelings and thoughts about implementing mandatory consent lessons on sticky notes.

“Nottingham is really falling behind the sector in terms of consent training”

The rally aimed to demonstrate how strongly Nottingham students feel towards consent training and was planned with input from SU Staff, UoN Students Against Sexual Violence and Sexism, and UoNSU Community Officer, Daisy Forster. 

When asked for comment by Impact, Forster stated: “Nottingham is really falling behind the sector in terms of consent training; many other universities have already introduced mandatory workshops, including Nottingham Trent. Yet [University of Nottingham] are still reluctant to follow! It’s time for them to accept that sexual violence is an issue on campus between students and actively do something about it – and [consent training] would be such a simple way to potentially prevent a huge amount of suffering!”

Although she was unable to attend the rally, Forster’s colleagues SU Liberation Officer Ife Oyedeji, Women*’s Officer Noa Holt, and Education Officer River Butterworth represented the Student’s Union and showed their support for the campaign.

Currently, the university has a dedicated team of qualified Sexual Violence Liaison Officers (SVLO’s)  to support students who have experienced historical or recent sexual abuse. Students are asked to submit a report via the Report and Support website if they have had a discriminatory, abusive or distressing experience. If students require immediate support, they are encouraged to contact the Police, Topaz, or University Security.

When Impact contacted the university management for comment, Professor Katherine Linehan – Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and People – spoke on their behalf, stating: “We educate our staff and students on the standards of behaviour we expect and promote safety and awareness initiatives such as Stronger Together and Shoulder to Shoulder (gendered sexual and domestic violence) to protect our community against sexual misconduct.”

“We are always open to conversations about how this can be better achieved”

She further detailed plans to pilot new forms of consent training as part of the Stronger Together initiative that will also address misogyny and hate crime. “The pilot, delivered to student mobile phones, is aimed at making these resources as accessible as possible to drive engagement.”

Alongside the remote delivery of consent training, the university plans to pilot face-to-face consent training through sports clubs and societies. “We know that peer-to-peer learning can be the most impactful way of influencing values and behaviours but we are always open to conversations about how this can be better achieved.”

Professor Linehan also added: “We work closely with our Students’ Union to deliver active bystander training to students to raise awareness of these issues and find ways for them to safely challenge inappropriate behaviour and support one another to be safe.”

Córa-Laine Moynihan

Featured image courtesy of Lucinda Dodd. Permission for use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @uonsu_womensnetwork and @sexpression.nottingham on Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article image courtesy of Lucinda Dodd. Permission for use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

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