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What is consent? Education and Awareness in College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CUA chapter.

*In this article I will be discussing sensitive topics like Sexual Assault and Violence* 

Most students come to college with some varying form of sex education from high school. One concept that students may be aware of, but not entirely educated on, is the concept of consent. Consent is generally defined as permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. This can lead to an overall lack of understanding of what consent is and why it is essential. This is backed up by the jarring statistics of sexual violence on campus, especially as a freshman. According to a study done by the Association of American Universities, it is “reported incidences of sexual violence decline from 16.1% of freshman college women to 11.3% of seniors.” Furthermore, studies have shown that “students are at the highest risk of sexual assault in the first few months of their first and second semesters in college”. As the AAU study concludes, this may be because of a lack of orientation on campus and familiarity with new settings. Another source states: “Freshman females are targeted further as they are new to the area, have less parental supervision, and may participate in new activities such as alcohol and drug use as they try to meet new people”. All of these statistics and sources are to back up that sexual violence education is extremely important. Once one has the backing to learn what consent is, it can help aid them in situations they were unaware of before. 

There are education groups to combat this, at The Catholic University of America (CUA), we have the student organization PEERS, a national organization, which is a group that educates students on multiple important topics, ranging from mental health to alcohol awareness. One of these topics is sexual assault and violence education. Currently, I am a part of this organization as a member of the Sexual Assault and Violence Education group. In this group, our main job is to help teach the student body about the available resources and to help educate them. One of the biggest parts of this job is to help education on consent. Sometimes based on different administrations there can be varying degrees of what can be discussed or not. That’s why it is so important to have organization and overall awareness of what consent is.   

However, besides these organizations, there are other ways that students can get involved with sexual prevention on campus. Besides learning what consent is, one way is to become an empowered bystander, so to learn how to interrupt sexual assault if they witness it happening and take steps to protect others. First is always being alert in some situations and when you do witness a situation first evaluate your safety before entering. Some ways to intervene are to either directly address the situation, create a diversion, or delegate the responsibility to a higher authority, such as the police. Another way is to be aware of the Title IX process that your campus has, such as which resources to reach out to for support. At CUA, we have the counseling center which can provide individual counseling or group therapy for survivors. Another resource is the Dean of Students office, which can help one going through a situation that needs support. As a student, it’s essential to always consider one’s safety first and to make sure that through education and access to support everyone can feel safe on their campus. 

Hey! I am a freshman from CUA! I love talking about feminism, Gilmore Girls, pop culture, politics, and all things in between!