Talking consent and sexual assault

    Jenn Gorham (Megan Cooke/AQ)
    Jenn Gorham (Megan Cooke/AQ)
    Jenn Gorham (Megan Cooke/AQ)

    In Jenn Gorham’s story, she’s at a bar. She glances across the room in time to see Norman Reedus walk in. She reminds the audience he’s the actor who plays Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead. They’re both drunk and ready for anything.

    “Daryl Dixon, you’re on my list and this is happening tonight,” she says.

    The problem with her fantasy, neither would be legally able to give consent because they’re drunk. Gorham, program coordinator at the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, gave a lecture on Nov.12 about what it means to give and receive sexual consent, and she talked about sexual assault.

    Gorham’s dark-brown hair extends halfway down her neck. She has pale green eyes and wears a black cardigan. She clutches a black marker in her right hand.

    She talks about coercing people into sex. To show how coercion can be as simple as badgering the other person, Gorham has the audience split in two.

    She walks up one side, handing lollipops from a clear, plastic bag. She instructs the other side to use any verbal means to get the lollipop from their partner.

    She later asks who was successful. Some used blackmail, while some bartered. Applied to sex, Gorham said this is unhealthy and in many cases leads to sexual assault.

    She steps out, throws her hands in front of her with her eyes wide open.

    “Don’t you want every sexual interaction in your life to be where they’re launching themselves at you?”

    Gorham admits she’s not an expert on consent. Although the Fredericton Assault Centre focuses a lot on consent, she said the dialogue about sex is also very important.

    “There are never any conversations about dialogue, about how to ask for sex, about how to say what you do want, how to say what you don’t want,” she said. “We don’t teach people that.”

    According to the Fredericton Assault Centre’s website, in 78 per cent of sexual assaults, the woman knew the men. Strangers commit only 22 per cent of assaults.

    According to the York University website, 31 per cent of sexual assaults happen in dating or friendly relationships. SACHA, a feminist, non-profit group, said 80 per cent of Canadian undergraduates surveyed experience violence in a dating relationship at some point.

    “When we talk about consent and coercion, this is one of the largest areas where sexual violence happens,” she said. “It’s because people don’t understand laws and what it means to have consent, what it means to give consent, communication.”

    STUSU hosted the lecture, but president of the union, Elizabeth Murphy, said the lecture appealed to her personally.

    “We think its such an important discussion topic for everyone, but especially for people our age,” she said.

    “It’s a tough subject to discuss. You also don’t know how some people may react as some people are survivors.”

    Murphy said interactive lectures are a fun way to learn about consent and will get more people to join in the discussion. She thinks Gorham brought enthusiasm to a tough subject most people don’t like talking about. The lecture was held in JDH’s G5. The room was only roughly a third full, but that’s not what matters said Murphy.

    “Each opportunity, it doesn’t matter how many people are at the event, it’s just important that there’s someone there hearing the message,” she said. “Because those people can go on and share the message.”




    1. Would that lengthy (and inaccurate) description of the speaker happen were it at male?

      I am extremely uncomfortable with both the erroneous description and the inaccuracy, it makes me wonder why the details were embellished. Or needed, when her picture is RIGHT THERE.


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