A recent study found that over half of Canadians don’t understand what the full scope of consent means.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation says that 55% of people do not understand that consent has to be enthusiastically given.
According to the UVic Sexualized Violence Resource Centre, consent is defined as: The voluntary agreement to engage in a contact or sexual activity and to continue to engage in the contact or activity. Consent means that all persons involved demonstrate, through words or actions, that they freely and mutually agree to participate in a contact or activity.
Over 4.7 million women in Canada who are over 15-years-old have been sexually assaulted outside of an intimate relationship, according to Statistics Canada.
The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC) is one of many resources on sexual violence within Victoria to attempt to reduce these statistics.
They see first hand the effects of sexual violence.
The VSAC provides education to help prevent sexual violence, they provide safe spaces to talk about sexual violence and they have numerous supports for sexual violence survivors.
“I think that there are a lot of people seeking to learn more about consent,” said Carissa Ropponen, Media Relations for the VSAC.
“We get a lot of requests from schools, youth agencies and even adults wanting to learn more about what consent is, what it looks like and what it means.”
Despite the low percentage, the study says that the statistics of people who know what enthusiastic consent entails is improving.
In 2015, the last time this report was done, only 33% of people knew that consent must be positive and ongoing. In 2022, those numbers have improved to 45%.
According to VSAC, destigmatization is at the forefront of these improving numbers.
“I think over the last number of years sexual assault and sexualized violence have become more of a conversation in our culture; people want to learn more,” Ropponen told Victoria Buzz.
“There’s also been a lot of highly publicized cases of sexualized violence happening in the community and when we hear about those cases we often receive more requests and higher demand for our prevention content.”
“The more that we talk about these things in community, the more that we educate ourselves, have these conversations, the more people have understanding about what that enthusiastic consent looks like.”
When it comes to next steps to further improve the number of people who fully grasp what consent is and what it entails, the VSAC is putting in the work to make sure Victorians don’t get left behind.
“I think we need to continue to have these conversations,” said Ropponen. “I think education is so important. It’s one of the reasons we have education for youth, starting at a younger age so people understand and people can make those changes before sexualized violence happens.”
“There definitely needs to be more education for adult populations, and there seems to be more and more of a desire for that.”
The VSAC exists not only for education but also for survivors.
“It’s never their fault,” Ropponen said about the survivors the VSAC works with. “It’s a centre where people can come for support.”