Sexual consent campaign gathers momentum in Leeds

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The Gryphon interviewed Amy Cousens about her sexual consent campaign. She is putting forward a proposal to the Leeds City Council to make it mandatory for all clubs and bars in Leeds to put up sexual consent posters, as well as giving staff sexual consent training.

Firstly, could you tell me a bit about yourself?

I was the Leeds Beckett student union women’s representative from May 2015 to June 2016 but since I was a student I’ve been campaigning on all sorts. Mainly on anti-austerity but also I took a big focus on campaigning to kick sexism off campus. I’m also part of a national campaign called “Rape is no Joke” which was set up to combat misogyny and comedy when discussing rape and to raise awareness of rape culture. A lot of sexual assaults that happen could be prevented as there is a completely blurred line – this is shown by the fact there’s even a song about it! Programmes like How I Met Your Mother have so many jokes about brutal rape which trivialises it.

How do you think this can be stopped?

Workshops are really important and have a two-fold positive impact. Firstly, they educate people on what rape is and secondly they encourage people to step forward if something did happen. This means that perpetrators can be punished and there will be less repeat offenders.

What are the specific aims for this campaign?

We are having a deputation outside the town hall and then will present our ideas to the council. We want to display posters into clubs and bars in towns where sexual assaults are really condensed. On the poster it will display places of support which will show people where they can report incidents and there will also be a helpline. Lots of men and women feel like if they are groped in a night club they should laugh it off but people have a right to say something. This can put people off going out – it is not the victims who should be pushed out of public spaces but this behaviour.

Do you think students are particularly vulnerable and what advice would you give to students to combat this?

Campus culture is enshrined with this rape culture. This is evident with some of the sports teams such as the Leeds Beckett rugby team who have games such as ‘Fuck a Fresher’. The advice I would give is that it is not up to you to avoid being sexually assaulted or harassed. You’re here to have fun and it is the responsibility of the University, City Council and West Yorkshire Police to enforce this.

The proposal to the council has since passed through the first stage of consideration successfully.

Polly Hatcher

Image: Euan Hammond

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