Q&A about compulsory consent workshops with ‘Enough is Enough’

What is ‘Enough is Enough’ at the School of Orient and African studies (SOAS)?

‘Enough is Enough’ is a student and survivor-led campaign that tackles issues around sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). We provide consent workshops for all incoming students. We usually run a welfare contact program which trains people to be active bystanders and aim to create a consent culture on campus and beyond. We hold public events against sexual violence and provide support to individuals or groups who have experienced such violences. The funding for Enough is Enough from the school also supports survivor spaces through Not the Only One and on-call welfare spaces for students and survivors who may be triggered by the workshop content. Our vision of a consent culture is where harassment and violence is not tolerated, where everyone feels empowered and confident to seek out support, and where we can all respect each other’s boundaries, comfort zones, sexualities and desires.

What are consent workshops and what do they entail? 

We usually run these mandatory workshops in person during freshers fortnight, while the campaign continues during the year, in order to push for consent workshops for all students and all staff. The workshops are a one-off 2 hour workshop that focus on student participation and intersectional learning. The content explores privilege, entitlement, power dynamics, consent beyond sexual encounters, rape culture, SGBV-related institutions, reporting mechanisms, consent culture, and different forms of justice. 

In light of the growing distrust of the legal system to support survivors and people of colour, it was important for EiE to avoid reproducing oppressive hierarchies in the workshop and acknowledge the valid resistance to formal reporting mechanisms. To point to a brighter and more intersectional future, we included a discussion of the types of justice that exist and how to build a consent culture to challenge the existing rape culture.

Who leads the workshops and who is behind ‘Enough is Enough’?

Enough is Enough is a student led project supported by the School and Student Union. The S.U. and Enough is Enough campaign work together to provide workshops and improve the running each year. The S.U. hires Enough is Enough Coordinators to oversee the organisation of the workshops, train the student facilitators, update content and manage the administration. The coordinators will hire a combination of past and first-time facilitators to ensure collaborative learning and campaign longevity.

How have you had to adapt these workshops due to Covid?

This year the workshops did not run during freshers fortnight but were rescheduled to take place over 6 weeks throughout January and February. The workshop was adapted to an online format that would be accessible and engaging to incoming students. Participant engagement was our top priority and so utilising Zoom functions (breakout rooms, virtual white boards, chat box) and adapting energisers to the virtual environment was important to us. In considering students’ different learning styles and abilities, we also created student resources and an accompanying webpage that engaged with the workshop content through a combination of text, graphic design, and videos.

When was the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign established?

‘Enough is Enough’ started in 2015. The Student Union secured a commitment and funding from the school to deliver mandatory consent workshops for 5 years to all new undergraduate and postgraduate students at SOAS. This year is the final year of funding and so our next steps are to work with the school to ensure ‘Enough is Enough’ workshops remain a priority.

How effective are compulsory consent workshops and do you have any facts or figures to highlight their effectiveness? 

The compulsory nature of workshops is centred around the understanding that those who need these workshops the most to challenge their preconceptions are not as likely to attend. By requiring students to attend, misconceptions about consent can be cleared up and survivors can see that their university is taking the issue of SGBV seriously. As well as this, students and survivors do not need to attend the workshops if they believe they could be retraumitised or triggered by the content. There is an option to attend survivor only workshops organised by Not The Only one for trained and tailored survivor support.

This year we ran 78 digital workshops over the course of 4 weeks in order to reach the new 1,300 students at SOAS. 81% of attendees offered very positive feedback and most commonly praised the ‘inclusive content’, ‘great facilitation’ and ‘interactive nature of the workshops’. 

Do you believe they are crucial in tackling rape culture particularly at universities?

Yes, they are crucial, however, the work must begin earlier. Consent education must be incorporated into our school curriculums and beyond to fully teach everyone the significance of boundaries, bodily autonomy, and choice. When we get to university, there is a lot to unlearn and one workshop won’t undo the harmful effects of growing up in a sex-negative and patriarchal society. As well as this, those who do not attend university are less likely to access this much-needed conversation and so mandatory consent classes at third level are only one aspect of a much larger campaign to challenge rape culture and create a consent culture.

Most universities in the UK don’t have compulsory consent workshops. Could you explain briefly how consent workshops came to be compulsory at SOAS? Perhaps someone reading this might follow your campaign at their own university, school, workplace.

In the academic year 2013/14, a Union General Meeting (UGM) motion was passed in support of the National Union of Students campaign ‘I Heart Consent’. The SOAS Student Union team then developed this motion into the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign. Funding and commitment were obtained from the school to deliver mandatory consent workshops for 5 years to all new undergraduate and postgraduate students at SOAS. As we stated earlier, this is the final year of funding and so we are working with the SU and school to ensure survivor-centred support, SGBV prevention, and consent education is taken seriously at SOAS.

Questions Kindly answered by Aoife Delaney (she/her) and Charli Keely (they/she), Enough is Enough administrators 

Instagram: @soasenoughisenough

Website: https://soasunion.org/welfare/enoughisenough/

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