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Consent Culture and Safer Campuses for Everyone

By: CJ McGillivray

Published On: February 15, 2022
Content warning: the following article contains references and terminology relating to consent culture and sexualized violence. 

In solidarity and support of the Safe Campuses BC Campaign, Ashton College encourages an ongoing dialogue with our academic community about how we can all promote consent culture and develop a better understanding of sexualized violence prevention. Whether you are a student, faculty member or employee, we urge everyone in our academic community to engage in thoughtful, compassionate and critical discussions. To support this process, we have compiled a collection of educational resources to help people better understand the relevant terms, concepts, and policies regarding sexualized violence. We have also included a collection of survivor resources listed below for people in need of immediate assistance or support.

Survivor Resources 

If you are someone who is in immediate danger or a survivor who requires immediate assistance, please call 911 or access any of the following resources: 

  • VictimLinkBC: call or text 1-800-563-0808 or reach out via email to [email protected] for free and confidential service available any hour of the day in the province of British Columbia or the Yukon. 
  • Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) Rape Crisis Centre: call 604-255-6344 or 1-877-392-7583 for immediate support from a feminist, anti-oppressive perspective. WAVAW offers culturally-affirming services by and for Indigenous people, along with gender-affirming services by and for queer or trans survivors. 
  • ShelterSafe: a national list of shelters and transition houses and an online resource for women and their children seeking safety from violence and abuse. 
  • Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: call 1-833-900-1010 for a confidential, multilingual service, operating all hours to connect survivors with social services, law enforcement or emergency services. 
  • Hope for Wellness Call 1-855-242-3310 for immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention for all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Support services are available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway or Inuktitut. 
  • Trans Lifeline: Call 1-877-330-6366 for immediate peer support from other trans and non-binary people, exclusively for trans and questioning individuals. Trans Lifeline values confidentiality, anonymity, harm reduction, community support, autonomy, equity and informed consent. The organization is also dedicated to dismantling white supremacy and critiquing structural and social inequalities. 

Community members can also view the Ashton College policy on sexual violence and misconduct for information about the reporting and disclosure process for survivors. Any member of the college community who requires support is encouraged to call (604) 899-0803 and request contact information to begin the disclosure or reporting process with our president or a member of human resources. 

Understanding Consent Culture 

If conversations about social justice are less familiar for you, you may be wondering what consent culture is and what people mean when they talk about sexualized violence. Consent culture is essentially a culture or way of living that places value on gaining consent or permission from another person before engaging in an activity together. Consent can be about sex, but it is also a part of our everyday lives in an endless number of ways. Any time we ask permission to do something, we are asking for consent. If you ask to borrow a pen from your coworker then you are asking for their consent. When your family member asks your cousin or younger sibling whether or not they would like a hug, that is also an example of requesting consent. When someone asks if they can hold your hand, go on a date with you, or kiss you, these are all examples of asking for consent. Consent is important in our everyday lives, and it becomes incredibly important when we engage in intimacy or sex of any kind. 

When it comes to sex, consent must be enthusiastic and clear. Silence or passive acceptance do not count. Consent is required each and every time because people can change their minds and no one should feel pressured to continue doing something they are no longer comfortable with. When someone is unconscious or they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are not capable of giving consent. Consent must also be voluntary and cannot be coerced or pressured by someone who is in a position of power or authority. Consent is simple, but pop culture and social pressures tend to warp our understanding and expectations of consent. 

Using accessible infographics, the Government of British Columbia affirms that consent should be: 

  • Active 
  • A choice 
  • A process 
  • Based on equal power 

They also assert that consent is not: 

  • Assumed 
  • Pressured 
  • Silent 
  • Incapacitated 

Understanding Sexualized Violence 

The World Health Organization defines sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion.” Their definition emphasizes that sexual violence can be carried out by anyone, “regardless of their relationship to the [survivor]” and it can happen anywhere, including domestic and professional settings. Simply, sexualized violence is an umbrella term that covers all the varied forms of inappropriate sexual attention and acts. When someone does not or cannot consent to engage in sexual activity, that is an example of sexualized violence. 

The executive director of the Ending Violence Association of BC, Ninu Kang, offers another definition for us in a recent press release for the Government of British Columbia. Kang describes sexual violence as “unwanted sexualized behaviours [which] range from sexual jokes, inappropriate sexual comments and touching, to sex without consent.” Because the problem is so pervasive in contemporary culture, the definition is broad and covers many types of unwanted sexual attention. 

Safer Campuses for Everyone 

Beyond creating awareness through their recent campaign, the Government of British Columbia has partnered with BCcampus to create and share a free training resource called Safer Campuses for Everyone. The training resource contains four modules and is freely accessible to all post-secondary students, faculty and staff members in our province. Using an inclusive and intersectional approach, the training resource focuses on the following questions: 

  • What is sexualized violence and how does it impact our communities? 
  • Why is consent important for all personal and professional relationships? 
  • What can you safely do to do intervene and prevent an incident of sexualized violence when you see one about to happen? 
  • How can you best support loved ones, family members, colleagues or friends who have experienced sexualized violence in their lives? 

Other Educational Resources 

Accountability and Acknowledgement 

Ashton College acknowledges that it is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded land of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-Waututh nations. We understand that we cannot ethically participate in conversations about systemic sexualized violence without making this acknowledgement. We recognize that gendered and sexualized violence disproportionately affects Indigenous women and girls, as evidenced by the ongoing crisis and national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. 

Another part of accountability is the willingness to learn and correct ourselves. If we have missed anything or overlooked anything in the writing of this article, please reach out to us at [email protected] so that we can make the necessary changes.


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