The Students’ Association and the University have jointly launched a new program aimed at making students aware of the concept of sexual consent.
‘Got Consent?’ is part of a wider “STAnd Together” campaign launched to help students avoid being “bystanders” when they witness a crime or someone being harassed.
Alice Lecointe, the Students’ Association’s gender equality officer, told The Saint: “We organised workshops in halls throughout Freshers’ Week to engage students in a discussion on these issues and give them the tools to safely intervene when in a bystander position. We have a group of student volunteers to lead these and they were trained last Monday by Graham Goulden, who is chief officer for the violence reduction unit. Both the Students’ Association and Student Services have been working on this initiative and we have received University wide support from figures such as the rector.”
Ms Lecointe said that, as the workshops aim to explain, rape and sexual assault are not as simple or clear cut as some people think. “There are many cases where the perpetrators aren’t aware they are committing rape or sexual assault,” she said.
She continued: “We have received very positive feedback on the workshops and I believe students who have attended so far were deeply and positively impacted. To measure this success, a member of the School of Medicine is conducting a before and after survey. This project remains a work in progress and we still have a lot to learn, however we are the first Scottish university to take such a lead on these issues.
“I believe the bystander intervention approach is what will make this initiative successful and we are lucky to live in such a special, tight-knit community. We want to appeal to students by encouraging them to look out for their friends, fellow students and fellow St Andreans, in order to create a community which supports its members and makes it impossible for sexual assault to take place.”
Ms Lecointe confirmed that the Union is planning to run these workshops throughout the year.
Joe Tantillo, Director of Representation, is helping to oversee the project. He said: “We want everyone to know that they can make a difference by intervening and can help to keep our St Andrews community safe.
“I would encourage everyone to attend a workshop. They are very interactive and only one hour long. We have had a lot of positive feedback from students who have completed the workshops; they recognise how important these issues are.”
A spokesperson for the University highlighted that the campaign educates students about the legal definition of consent introduced by the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act in 2010. They said: “This legislation enacted a raft of new crimes; including coercing others to engage in any form of sexual activity without consent, forcing someone to view pornography, or sending sexually explicit e-mails or texts. It also recognised, for the first time, that consent cannot be given by an individual incapacitated by use of drugs or alcohol.
“The ‘Got Consent’ campaign plays an important supporting function – it will help improve student safety and help victims of sexual crimes by allowing clarity and confidence about how the law has changed.”