Sexual violence is an epidemic in Canada. From reports about Hockey Canada to high-profile court cases to school walkouts across the country, there has been a heightened conversation recently about the need for consent education nationally. Unfortunately, only 28% of Canadians fully understand what it means to give consent (Canadian Women’s Foundation). Addressing this starts with awareness, action, and accountability. That’s why we’re partnering with the youth-led High School Too movement to establish a national Consent Awareness Week. Canada would be the first country in the world to recognize and adopt this significant week aimed at systemic change in schools, workplaces and communities.
Consent Awareness Week invites Canadians to have thoughtful, affirming, intersectional and age-appropriate conversations about consent. Responding to rejection, articulating boundaries, respecting bodily autonomy and active listening are valuable life skills. This week is a significant opportunity to reflect, champion, and celebrate consent as a cornerstone of all relationships, not just intimate ones.
Social locations like (but limited to) race, ability, gender, sexuality, and class shape how individuals, groups and communities can give and receive consent. This will be an opportunity to explore how consent is mandatory in all relationships and foundational for liberatory relations. We encourage folks to read and think about consent in relation to:
Your sports team
Institutions like healthcare and more!
The impetus for this week came from students, parents, survivors and community leaders; and we chose this time because the first six weeks of school are designated the Red Zone when there is an especially significant increase in sexual violence at post-secondary institutions. But Consent Awareness Week is meant to engage the whole community. We hope you will join student leaders, survivors, advocates and governments across the country in adopting it during the third week of September.
As part of Consent Awareness Week, campuses across the country will host #WeBelieveYouDay on Tuesday, September 20th. This is a day to share support for survivors, strengthen allyship skills, and build cultures of care. #WeBelieveYouDay is built on the groundbreaking work of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, Survivor Love Letter Project, and the Ontario University Sexual Violence Network.
When consent is not understood and respected, the epidemic of gender-based violence continues. 636,000 sexual assaults are self-reported every year in Canada (Statistics Canada 2017). In children and youth, 1 in 7 girls reported that another student has sexually assaulted them (Taylor, Singh, & Common 2019). At Canadian postsecondary schools, 71% either witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in a postsecondary setting, and 41% of all reported incidents of sexual assault were reported by students (Statistics Canada 2020). In the workplace, one in four women (25%) and one in six men (17%) reported having been personally subjected to inappropriate sexualized behaviours in 2020 (Statistics Canada).
Clearly, so much more needs to be done for everyone to feel they can be heard and respected for their choices in their relationships; whether on the playground, in the boardroom or in their home. Declaring the third week of September Consent Awareness Week is vital to ensuring that folks coast-to-coast feel respected and safe wherever they live, work and play. We hope you’ll join us.
For more information, and to register your interest, please email Aubrianna Snow at email@example.com. If you’re hosting any events or have relevant resources we can share with the broader community, please let us know here!
Statistics Canada. (September 2017). Based on Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey and General Society Survey (GSS) on Canadian’s Safety in 2014.
Statistics Canada. (September 2020). From the recent Statistics Canada’s reports based on the Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population (SISPSP) in 2019.
Statistics Canada. (2020). Survey on Sexual Misconduct at Work.
Taylor, C., Singh, A. & Common, D. (2019, October 25). More Than 1 in 7 Girls Say They Were Sexually Assaulted by Another Student – but Schools Lack Policies to Help. CBC News. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/marketplace-school-violence-sexual-violence-1.5329520
Suggested Citation: Courage to Act. (2022, July). Join Us for Consent Awareness Week! Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/caw.