Australian Students Vs Sexual Consent: Why Do They Slam the Mandatory Online Module?


New educational initiatives started to appear in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

Being vocal about sexual misconduct and assault is crucial to creating social awareness. And, it’s only natural that education can become a powerful medium in spreading the message. However, what starts as a good thing can sometimes go wrong.

In 2016, the UK-based company Epigeum partaking in Oxford University initiatives has stepped forward with Consent Matters.

Consent Matters: What’s It All About?

The online course for students was meant to shed the light on sexual ‘boundaries, respect, and positive intervention.’ In short, it teaches understanding if a specific person clearly expresses sexual consent.

Also, the course teaches how to recognize difficult situations and step in if others need help. According to Epigeum, the course was developed as a module for the “first-year undergraduate student and students in any year new to the university.”

Soon after its inception, the course was exported “down under.” However, unlike their British counterparts, University of Sydney students didn’t quite like what they were offered. Epigeum decided to articulate a sensitive social problem using ‘stick figures,’ animations, and scripts.

In a series of videos offered to students, these ‘stick figures’ engage in situations illustrating the importance of expressing and understanding sexual consent. Selected videos show the impact of drugs and alcohol on sexual decision making.

Why Did Australian Students Slam ‘Consent Matters’ Course?

Let’s break down why exactly Australian students were appalled by the online module becoming mandatory from 2018 onwards.

  • The University of Sydney students welcomed the initiative as the one introduced “for the record.” According to what they say, the university administration had to respond to campus sexual assault instances that numerously occurred on its terrain.
  • The officials chose not to address the rape culture as the underlying cause. The information looks extremely simplistic and unrealistic.
  • Students believe the online module will not be effective and will not shift attitudes or behavior in terms of consensual sexual activity.
  • The concept of an “enthusiastic ‘yes’” has caused quite the stir. Most of them agreed that asking for permission to touch or kiss someone looks silly.

The Shocking Truth About Sexual Assault in Australian Universities

The reason why students of Australian universities disbelieve the ‘Consent Matters’ initiative is clear. Last year’s report conducted by Australian Human Rights Commission in 39 universities revealed a shocking sexual misconduct statistic.  

  • 51% of all university students experienced sexual harassment at least once.  
  • 6.9% of students survived sexual assault at least on one occasion during the 2015-2016 school year.
  • 26% of all students experienced sexual harassment in a university setting.
  • Undergraduate students are at more risk compared to their postgraduate counterparts. 28% of undergraduates and 19% postgraduates have sustained sexual harassment in a university setting.  
  • Trans and gender diverse students are at more risk compared to cisgender male and female students. 45% have sustained sexual harassment in a university setting.

The numbers make it clear that taking an online module on sexual consent won’t shift the paradigm. Measures have to be taken nationwide! The University of Sydney has sexual assault guideline available on its website. However, little will change while rape culture exists in society and sexual crimes go unpunished.

Women’s Officers Take Action

In 2016, 12 Sydney University Women’s Officers penned an open letter to the University  Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence. Women put forward a list of demands which included:

  • sexual misconduct education/training for students and staff;
  • university policies and procedures regarding “its response to complaints about sexual harassment and assault.”

One of the demands involved creating an educational online module on sexual assault and harassment that “must be completed by all students once per semester.”

Bottom Line

As for ‘Consent Matters,’ to most, it looks like a pathetic attempt to do something about the problem that has persisted for years. If not for the survivors, activists, and all sympathizing with the victims, the university officials would keep turning the blind eye to what’s been going on.

Unfortunately, the sexual misconduct conversation is ongoing.

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Australian Students Vs Sexual Consent: Why Do They Slam the Mandatory Online Module?
Australian Students Vs Sexual Consent: Why Do They Slam the Mandatory Online Module?
New educational initiatives started to appear in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
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