The majority of Australian students have received some education around sex and human reproduction by the time they complete secondary school, but there is only minimal focus on issues of consent, ethical sexual behaviour or sexual assault. This is according to feedback from students engaged through both research by the UTS Design Innovation Research Centre and face-to-face Sex and Ethics training.
Consent Matters is an online training and quiz that every single member of our community – staff and students – will complete. It will bring us all up to the same level of understanding of what consent is, how to recognise when it’s not there, real-life skills to use in an unacceptable situation and available support services.
“I am in my 30s, have a child and am married to a man I have been with since my teens, so I really didn’t learn anything undertaking this course, however, had I been 18 years old I think I would have found it to be beneficial. I think this course is effective in helping people understand their rights when it comes to stopping sexual behaviour they do not feel comfortable with”
“I was only 18 as a first year and at school you don’t learn many strategies for when you go out when you reach that age. I remember not being confident in my own decisions and reading other signals because it was so new to me. I definitely know that I would have done thing very differently if I had the knowledge or confidence to know my own boundaries and what I was comfortable with. I recommend that this course should be based on to other educational institutions, especially high school when you turn 16.”
“I am a shy person so doing this course made me aware of more than 1 way to stand up for others”
“I would most likely be a passive bystander in uncomfortable social situations. This course taught me that if I am waiting for someone to save the day, I could very well be that person. Somebody has to do something”
“I’m in a healthy loving relationship but am sometimes reluctant to decline sex if I’m not feeling it to not disappoint my partner. This course has inspired me to try be more assertive.”
“My initial instinct when intervening is to go straight to direct confrontation, I would not usually have considered distraction or seeking support from more friends.”
Why Consent Matters?
Research by the UTS Design Innovation Research Centre (DI:rc), highlights that young people (in particular) need clear guidance about what constitutes consent. Among the key insights from the DI:rc research are that students are actively interested in seeking a better understanding of appropriate and lawful behaviour. Many students expressed a lack of understanding about what constitutes sexual assault and sexual harassment. Male students in particular identified concern about being “unknowing or unwitting perpetrators”.
This uncertainty is compounded for students from different backgrounds and experiences and with different cultural perspectives on sexual assault. UTS has a particularly diverse student cohort which contributes to widely differing understandings around this issue including:
- 12,400 international students from more than 120 countries;
- 2000 domestic students from non-English-speaking backgrounds;
- 1600 students with disability;
- 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students.
As a consequence, among young people in our community we cannot assume either a common understanding or a level playing field when it comes to matters related to an understanding of sexual assault and consent.
We have identified through our own research that such awareness raising activities are both critically important and sought after by young people, and equally important for their support network, in particular their tutors and lecturers. That’s why we’ll all take the same training.
We’re similarly rolling this out to staff to ensure we’re all on the same page.
So what are you waiting for? Log on and complete it now.
Or if you have questions, ask your question and come along to the Consent Matters event at the lx.Lab to meet a panel of the Project Lead, trauma-informed counsellors and more.
For more about Consent Matters: UTS’ zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and assault was recently featured on ABC Radio National.