Opinion: Educate frosh about sexual violence

I am certain that many individuals would praise the fact that Carleton frosh facilitators advertise sexual assault support services on their jerseys and would commend the fact that Diversity and Sexual Violence was the first topic to be discussed during the Fall Orientation leader training. The Consent Team implemented by student group Our Turn is also a good step forward.

The truth of the matter, however, is that in comparison to the sexual violence ravaging universities across the country, these efforts are meagre in combatting this epidemic.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent how these bright initiatives and promising pursuits often do not yield much progress in advancing consent education and reducing sexual violence during frosh. For example, although we did enjoy an informative lecture on sexual violence and the importance of consent during our frosh facilitator training, I am certain that should one of our frosh students disclose their sexual assault to us we would be inadequately prepared and run the potentially high risk of implying blame or inflicting shame with even one poorly-worded question.

Studies indicate that the reaction of the first person to whom the survivor discloses their assault can define how the survivor interprets their assault and their medium for coping for the rest of their life. This is an enormous amount of responsibility placed upon frosh facilitators who undergo approximately 30 minutes of sexual violence and consent education.

Carleton needs to set the precedent for universities employing peers for leadership roles that it is necessary to equip said peers with a wide arsenal of techniques and confidence in advanced training regarding the extremely complicated and very sensitive topic of sexual violence on campus.

This experience of deficient education on consent and sexual violence is also shared by the participants of frosh. Although the word “consent” has rather prominent representation during frosh, this does not compensate for the fact that many adolescents do not understand consent in action and how to detect implicit consent. Studies indicate the highest levels of sexual assaults are reported during the first eight weeks of school, thus it is imperative that all frosh students undergo consent training before even stepping onto campus.

At McGill University, students are required to watch a 30-minute crash course on consent before even being able to register for frosh. This training ensures that a very large percent of McGill’s new students  have had preliminary training in consent and makes a valiant effort to maintain a safe campus for everyone.

I strongly encourage that Carleton follow McGill’s lead. I also recall that when I was a froshie last year, no one talked to me about consent. Our residence fellows gave a lackluster presentation on safe sex to approximately 30 of my floormates, which was cut short by intense awkwardness. I also noticed there were no posters featured in either residence or on campus on consent or how to cope with sexual assault until at the least the end of the first semester. This is too late.

Frosh provides a rarely replicable opportunity to address the masses of new students arriving to Carleton on this very important topic. All frosh participants are now members of the Carleton community and their actions define whether Carleton is a safe space and an environment in which success of all natures can flourish. I advise Carleton to be innovative and meticulous in making sure Carleton students respect and have ability to detect consent. There is always more we can do.