Activity: Academic Talks or Presentations › Keynote › Research
Rising rates of gender-based violence, sexual assaults and victimisation have made on-campus consent an important topic of research. Research suggests that consent is often misunderstood, but limited research has focused specifically on the perceptions and attitudes of consent among university students. In 2014, the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK initiated a campaigned called ‘I Heart Consent’, which aimed to raise awareness of consent and challenge myths around gender-based violence. The campaign followed research conducted by the NUS which found that sexism and ‘lad culture’ were pervasive on campuses. The University of Northampton (UoN) is a campus of change-makers and wanted to start its own conversations about consent on-campus. This year, inter-disciplinary researchers from Law and Psychology convened a local ‘I Heart Consent’ week of action, to raise awareness about consent at a local level. This week of action involved cross disciplinary sessions as well as involvement from local organisations, such as Rape Crisis and an LGBTQ group. During this week, students were surveyed about their perceptions and understanding of issues around sexual consent, as well as their knowledge of gender-based violence and support services. This paper will provide an overview of the UoN’s week of action, while outlining preliminary findings from this research. A focus will be on the direct and practical applications of this work. For example, these findings may inform local policy and practice, as well as systems within Higher Education which provide support for students disclosing incidents of sexual violence and sexism. This will also include implications that this work has for future research, including how these findings might inform existing campaigns and the development of new campaigns which seek to address perceptions of consent within Higher Education in the UK.