College Sponsors Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events, Keynote

By Elizabeth Sawyer

On April 11, sex and relationships educator Kate McCombs delivered the keynote address of the College’s programming for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). McCombs spoke about the importance of enthusiastic consent. “Enthusiastic consent is more than just ‘can I touch you?’” she said. “[It] is about shifting from just avoiding a ‘no’ to seeking an eager yes.”

McCombs suggested that learning to get better at hearing no, working to make a partner feel comfortable saying no and learning to rethink consent as applying to every type of contact we have with other people, and not just to sex, are ways to start pursuing enthusiastic consent.

McCombs stressed the importance of improving communication skills in conversations that might normally be uncomfortable, and urged students to talk about sex outside the bedroom. “Good communication is what opens the door to finding out what you like,” she said. “I want you to have sex that’s good for you and for your partners– I want to encourage the idea that you will know what’s best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to good sex.”

McCombs’ talk followed the launch of the MiddSafe Online Advocate tool, a website that contains all of the resources of MiddSafe’s 24 hour hotline. Advocates demonstrated how to use the website and answered questions in a reception in Crossroads. The Online Advocate can be accessed at go/onlineadvocate.

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is recognized nationally, and aims to raise public awareness about sexual assault and methods of prevention. The College’s SAAPM events, sponsored by the Health and Wellness Education office, MiddSafe, Queers and Allies and Green Dot, included Green Dot Bystander Training, the launch of MiddSafe’s Online Advocate tool, a consentthemed carnival called ConsentFest and a workshop entitled “Queering Sex Ed.”

While programming for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month has occurred annually at the College, ConsentFest was a new event to the College this year. “ConsentFest is based on a successful program model from other schools including Bentley University and Amherst College. [It] aims to create space for conversations and questions about consent,” Director of Health and Wellness Education Barbara McCall wrote in an email to the Campus. Participants played games and spoke with representatives from various College offices and programs in the Axinn Winter Garden.

The Spring Symposium will also feature a number of academic presentations concerning sexual violence.

“I hope students see that violence response and prevention are important areas of work at the College,” McCall said.