Say ‘yes’ to consent.
That was the advice relationship expert Mike Domitrz offered thousands of frosh on Tuesday when he led York University’s annual You Had Me At Consent event for students new to the university.
Domitrz, a leading authority on safe dating and healthy communication around sex, is the founder of The DATE SAFE Project. He spent the afternoon at York U highlighting the importance of respect and consent.
The event was sponsored by the University’s Centre for Human Rights, and this year it was organized as part of York Orientation Day.
This year’s audience of incoming students heard Domitrz’s signature presentation “Can I Kiss You?,” which explores all the reasons why the majority of the population doesn’t ask for consent in sexual situations, but should.
Reading body language and making assumptions is dangerous, he said; asking for consent, however, gives a person a choice and leads to a much healthier sexual experience.
He shared with the audience a personal story about when he was in university and learned that his sister had been raped. He told the crowd that his first reaction was that he wanted the offender “dead,” to which the audience agreed this would be a “normal” response.
“But are we hypocrites if we want the rapist dead after the rape, but don’t want to do anything to stop it from happening?,” he posed. “I don’t want to be that hypocrite.”
Intervening when danger is present at parties and group settings or when alcohol is involved is just as important, and can prevent a sexual assault from happening. Persons under the influence, he suggested, are not able to give consent – even if they may say “yes.”
He has spent more than 15 years inspiring students on healthier dating and communication. Part of the program is spent bringing volunteers up on stage to act out scenarios, to provide an engaging and interactive experience.
York believes that consent and awareness about sexual violence is a key message. You Had Me At Consent is an opportunity to establish norms and expectations about respect that are in line with York’s values and commitment to create a safe learning, living and community environment for all students.
In February 2015, the Board of Governors of York University passed the newly developed Policy on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response. York has also launched a dedicated webpage on the prevention of and response to sexual violence.
Counsellors from Personal Counselling Services and peer support volunteers from Sexual Assault Survivor’s Support Line & Leadership (SASSL) were on hand during the presentation to offer support to students.
For more on the Centre for Human Rights, visit rights.info.yorku.ca.