Preventing sex assaults focus of O-week safety campaign

LIB WILSON
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014

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Thousands of students will be looking forward to the University of Waikato's traditional O-week revelry - but for some young women taking part in the alcohol-fuelled activities, it can easily become a week they will want to forget.

A small group of volunteers who form the Campaign for Consent team will be doing their best to ensure that no University of Waikato students become victims of rape or sexual assault.

The volunteers staged their first "stick-a-thon" at the YWCA on Wednesday - attaching flyers with positive messages about consent to thousands of notebooks for orientation packs.

The group was formed in response to the Roast Busters case, in which a group of West Auckland youths allegedly had group sex with drunk teenage girls and bragged about it online.

Community reaction revealed "a lot of feeling" about consent issues, Campaign for Consent organiser Anjum Rahman said. Orientation Week allowed them to reach many young people at once.

Communication was the focus of the flyer, which encouraged people to check their partners were comfortable and wanted to continue.

"We wanted to have positive messaging, because a lot of the messages are ‘don't do this, don't do that,' and I think it doesn't get through because it's just negative.

"Whereas this one is positive - ‘do this, do that'," Miss Rahman said.

The stick-a-thon and volunteers were organised by YWCA programmes co-ordinator Kelsey Lynam, who said the Campaign for Consent was "right up our alley" of empowering women.

Orientation week, which begins on March 3, generally involved alcohol and socialising, she said, so it was a good time to raise awareness of consent.

"People perceive [rape] as being violent and hurting somebody, but you don't have to be violent . . . if you both don't say ‘yes' then it's not OK."

Birthright and Link House manager Rebecca Fraser was among the volunteers, and said the positive messages were a way to get in before "the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" at an important time for new students.

"It's a time that's traditionally associated with quite a high incidence of sexual assault. You've got a lot of young people in the place at once. They're often new to living alone . . . They're going through a period of change so people are more vulnerable at that point as well."

University of Waikato head of student and academic services Michelle Jordan-Tong said the more people were educated about consent, the better.

GETTING, GIVING CONSENT

Ask your partner if they are OK with what is happening. Keep communicating – Are you comfortable? Do you want to keep going? Consent must be given "freely and willingly". You have the right to change your mind at any stage. 

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- Waikato Times

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