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A Reproductive Justice world is one where women can pursue higher education without the threat of sexual violence on their campus. Unfortunately, that is not a reality for many women at colleges and universities nationwide — 11.2 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
As undergraduate students themselves, In Our Own Voice Next Generation Leadership Institute fellows are committed to combating sexual assault and violence on their campuses. To kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, fellows hosted COVID-19-safe events centering the importance of consent in preventing sexual assault and violence.
On March 24, Spelman College fellows Asia Brown, Tyra Gravesande, and Bailey Roberts partnered with the Spelman College Title IX and Compliance Office to host Netflix and Consent, an interactive presentation via Zoom. The event was open to all students within the Atlanta University Center (AUC).
“Hosting an event centered around sexual assault and consent was extremely important to us because many of the people in my life are survivors,” said Brown, a sophomore comparative women’s studies major.
According to the Spelman College Title IX and Compliance Office, 80 percent of sexual assaults among college students are committed by a person known to the victim and 33 percent of sexual assault victims on campus are first year students.
“I felt that it was important to uplift the topic of consent within the AUC community and ensure that students are equipped to have safe, consensual sex,” Brown explained. “There are many survivors of sexual assault within the AUC community, and they deserve to feel heard and supported.”
During the event, students participated in several exercises that helped them simulate asking a partner for consent. Students were broken up into breakout rooms and asked to make a pizza as a group. Each group member had to consent to certain toppings going on the pizza, and if one group member did not like that topping, it was not put on the pizza. This exercise was a fun way to help students understand consent.
The Title IX Office ended the presentation by discussing safe sex practices, demonstrating ways to put on and remove female and male condoms, as well as dental dams. To wrap up, students were provided with resources and a safe sex checklist they could complete with a partner to discuss boundaries and sexual expectations.
On March 30, Howard University fellows Janetta Davis, Chanice McClover-Lee and Madison Harris hosted Consent 101, a Zoom event that sought to educate students on consent, why it is essential in combatting sexual assault, and what it looks like on a college campus.
According to a Planned Parenthood survey, only 27 percent of women feel that consent should be given at each step during a sexual encounter, and 19 percent of men said the same.
“With statistics like these, we realized that there was a need to discuss consent,” said Harris, a sophomore media, journalism, and film major. “We believe that part of the problem with consent is that people don’t understand what it is nor how to seek consent from their partners properly.”
During the event, the fellows were able to engage students in a comprehensive conversation about what consent looks like, while also inviting participants to share the ways their campus can improve on consent culture.
“We also provided our peers with resources from the Title IX office to ensure that they have the necessary tools to combat sexual assault and violence on Howard’s campus,” added Harris.
Keep up with our Next Generation Leadership Institute fellows and their activism on and off campus here.