By Kate Collins
On Sunday, September 28, Union kicked off its week of events aimed at supporting the It’s On Us campaign against sexual assault and harassment on college campuses.
Union is one of 200 colleges committed to the campaign, launched by President Barack Obama. The president’s hope is to shift the paradigm surrounding sexual assault “by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.”
For Monday’s event, Student Allies For Equality teamed up with the newly formed Committee of Consent Education Awareness to host the event “Do You Have the Green Light?”
The event was held in the courtyard of Hale House. A group of students gathered to take pictures with the It’s On Us logo and to step up to a laptop to sign the It’s On Us pledge online, thus reinforcing individuals’ commitments to stopping sexual assault.
The event’s primary focus was to explore the issue of sexual assault within the LGBTQIA+ community, as President of SAFE Kylie Gorski ’16 explained. “People are often overlooked in regards to sexual assault and sexual violence, and essentially we want to make people aware of the unique concerns that can surround these occurrences.”
Gorski and Public Relations Chair of SAFE Will Schwartz ’16 kick-started the discussion by giving an overview of what LGBTGIA+ stood for, to create a context outside of just the letters.
Schwartz and Gorski then dove into the interpretation of a concept that can be muddled to many college students: consent. They asked the students in attendance to share their ideas of what consent means, doing so by offering themselves as human canvasses for people to write their thoughts on.
The purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate that when Gorski and Schwartz allowed students to write on them, this was an example of consent. Questions were asked, and boundaries were only crossed if the word “yes” was used.
“By wanting to do something with our bodies and first asking, you are demonstrating consent,” Gorski explained. “It is asking, double-checking, making sure that what you are doing is really OK. But the truth is, once you know what your partner wants, you will probably have a lot more fun,
“and you will walk away knowing you were respectful.”
By engaging the crowd, the two were able to relay the most important messages that are applicable to any college campus.
The first was that regardless of the relationship you are in — whether married for twenty years, dating for two or never having had one at all — if there is hesitation from a partner, that means no.
The second was that just because consent was present in one instance does not mean it is always there. Anything but a resounding yes should be taken as a sign not to push forward.
Furthermore, in the campus community it is important to remember that mind-altering substances immediately remove one’s ability to provide consent. Any drug or alcohol use that can impair a person ultimately means that a current or potential partner should not pursue that person.
While many feel that sexual assault is something that occurs primarily with male aggressors and female victims, this is not true when examining the details. Sexual assault does go both ways, and neither participant in sexual activity should ever feel obligated to engage in sexual activity.
Schwartz concluded the event by saying, “What I really want people to come out of this with is a stronger understanding of what consent really means and how this specifically intertwines with the LGBTQIA+ community. I want them to apply it to the general community and take the message away into their own lives.”