Concordia University’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy plans to implement workshops later this year which focus on sexual assault awareness and the definition of consent for students.
“We don’t really hear a lot in this society about what is the meaning of consent and what consent looks like,” said Julie Michaud, the administrative co-ordinator at the 2110 Centre. “We have this very narrow idea of what is sexual assault and that creates a whole lot of problems in terms of being able to identify acts that technically do constitute sexual assault but that don’t fit the mould.”
The 2110 Centre hopes to educate students about the different ways sexual assault can occur, provide preventive measures, and define direct consent between two people. The initiative aims to debunk misconceptions such as the notion that women ask to be assaulted by the way they dress or act.
The upcoming consent workshops are also part of a broader effort by the 2110 Centre to start a sexual assault centre at the university.
“We’re trying to take a really holistic approach to making the campus safer for everyone so on the one hand we want to have the sexual assault centre to provide support for people who’ve had experiences with sexual assault or sexual harassment,” said Michaud. “We also want to act on the prevention side of things and we see teaching people how not to sexually assault as a key component in prevention.”
The workshops are in the early stages and while the exact launch date remains unknown, a few courses will take place before the end of the fall semester. Currently, workshops have only been planned for the Grey Nuns residence downtown, and not for the residences located at the Loyola Campus.
“It will be very beneficial,” said D’Arcy Ryan, the director of Residence Life at Concordia. “It is also something that we will look into having for our resident assistant orientation for next year.”
Since floor meetings require mandatory attendance for students living in residence, the workshops will be held during the meetings at the Grey Nuns residence. By default, this action ensures the seminar is mandatory for all residents as well.
“I definitely think that it’s nice that the information is available,” said Eleni Burrell, a student residing at Grey Nuns. “But I don’t think they should be mandatory. There are some students I know that would feel cornered; some people might feel uncomfortable so I think having your own choice is nice.”
However, this does not necessarily mean all future workshops at different residences at Concordia will be mandatory. It is to the discretion of individual resident assistants to decide how and when workshops will be held.
On Oct. 11, the Women’s Studies Student Association held it’s first General Assembly. At the assembly, those present unanimously voted to support the 2110 Centre’s initiative for the creation of a sexual assault centre at Concordia.
“Sexual assault is an all too common reality for many women, and by extension a primary concern for feminists,” read a statement issued by WSSA the next day. “One in four students will experience sexual assault over the course of a post-secondary career. Over 80 [per cent] of these are women.”
The statement went on to say that “to stall on the creation of a sexual assault centre is to further endanger the safety of Concordia’s population.”
WSSA is asking Concordia to “prioritize” the creation of a sexual assault centre and work with the 2110 to make this plan a reality in the future.