Content note: sexual assault, violence.
There is a need for an educational consent programme which aims to facilitate positive, informed and inclusive conversations about consent in universities and colleges across Wales to prevent sexual harassment and assault on campuses and the wider community.
There is a lack of education for students on the complexities of consent. Students who reach further and higher education come from a range of backgrounds and have different levels of understanding of consent. Consent is not part of the current curriculum, so we rely on students to learn about consent from family or friends.
The absence of consent education may put young people at risk of perpetrating sexual violence or becoming victimised. Early provision of consent education is key in helping young people identify and resist coercive behaviour in romantic relationships.
Some students will reach higher education perpetuating rape culture and victim blaming. According to the Guardian an estimated 50,000 incidents of sexual abuse or harassment take place in universities in England and Wales every year. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen that sexual violence has not stopped. We must ensure that this becomes a top priority during the pandemic and beyond.
As a movement we want to reduce harm and ensure the safety of our students. We want to ensure that all students have a positive university experience, and that universities are safer places to live, work and study. Education on consent is vital in reducing the number of sexual assaults and violence. Everyone should have the right to free and accessible consent education.
Education on consent will prevent and hopefully reduce the number of sexual assaults in FE and HE and will have a knock-on effect to the wider community and workplaces. Students will feel equipped with the knowledge of consent. Consent education will empower bystanders to call out harmful behaviour.
Institutions, sector bodies and governments should work in close partnership with students’ unions and NUS to frame the consent training and implement it into the curriculum. They should have a two-way communication with students to understand the problems they face, highlight key solutions, and work together to implement sexual consent education into the curriculum. We want NUS to work collaboratively with the sector to develop training to help our students. We are asking for NUS to campaign and thus lobby HEIs/FEIs to develop and deliver this as part of their curriculum delivery, and work with the government to ensure that consent education is implemented as a mandatory part of education for all.