Content warning: sexual violence and survivors’ help
This past week, the University of Edinburgh welcomed The Consent Collective as part of their commitment to tackling sexual and gender-based violence, in conjunction with the #NoExcuse campaign. The non-profit organisation hosted a series of events at the university to help students and staff to discuss sexual harassment, consent, healthy relationships, sexual violence, and domestic abuse.
The Consent Collective was started by Dr Nina Burrows, a psychologist who specialises in sexual violence, sexuality and gender. The purpose of The Consent Collective was to gain a community of individuals willing to discuss such topics, as well as act in the form of a support group for survivors of sexual violence.
Nina Millns, event organiser, explained the importance of reaching out to students, commenting that, “the age group from about 18 to 25, is the most vulnerable in terms of experiencing sexual and domestic violence…it’s an epidemic on a global scale and no one really knows who to turn to, and the organisations that are there are so under-resourced, so there’s such a huge need for it”.
The first event of the week was a workshop entitled, ‘Surviving University,’ for anyone who has experienced sexual or domestic violence. The workshop aimed to guide people to the resources, both within the university and throughout the city, for appropriate support. It also provided a safe space to meet others with similar experiences. There was also a second workshop on ‘Finding pleasure after pain,’ providing advice on sex, love and intimacy to help those who have faced such experiences to navigate relationships and ultimately find sexual pleasure again.
In addition to the workshops, an innovative panel show: ’How to be good in bed’, took place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening. The panel featured founder, Dr. Nina Burrows, along with director Tanaka Mhishi. Jade Swaby, an independent sexual violence advocate for West London Rape Crisis also attended. The show was presented in a game-show style, giving the panellists different challenges, from ‘guess the problematic song lyrics,’ to acting out situations based on consent. The show covered varied topics, for example the lack of comprehensive sexual education in schools, in particular regarding its heteronormative nature, or the problematic nature of Game of Thrones. Despite addressing issues including the objectification of women, sexual violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, the show was light-hearted and entertaining, filled with witty repartee and the occasional innuendo.
All the events were inclusive of all individuals, at any experience level. Representatives from organisations such as Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid, as well as counsellors and members of the university’s sabbatical team, were on hand and clearly identified at all the events to provide advice and support.
Welcoming The Consent Collective shows how committed the university is to changing attitudes surrounding sex and consent across campus, as well as supporting those students who have been affected by sexual and domestic violence and abuse. The Consent Collective are hoping to be back in the spring to put on more exciting and informative events.
Photo: Sophie Maclean