Consent Café in Action

Posted On Friday June 17, 2022

Partnerships are the cornerstone of success for School District No. 73 and a Consent Café collaboration with Thompson Rivers University is just one of those examples.

Consent Café is an activity-based consent and sexualized violence prevention program designed specifically for children, youth, and young adults. The initiative has a particular focus on healthy relationships, healthy sexual decision making, reliable sources of health information, and youth-specific strategies to protect themselves and others from potential exploitation, abuse, and harm.

Founded by Chelsea Corsi, Senior Wellness Coordinator in the Faculty of Student Development, and Tanya Pawliuk, Associate Teaching Professor in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, the Consent Café is a collaboration between TRU faculty, TRU Wellness Centre, TRU Student Wellness Ambassadors, SD73 educational partners, and community partners such as the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre, ASK Wellness, and Safe Spaces, along with collaboration with elders and knowledge keepers in the area.

“We aim to be as decolonizing as possible in our work, recognizing that this is work that is ongoing for us,” Pawliuk told the Board of Education at a Regular Meeting on Monday, June 13.

The Consent Café was designed to bring university campuses, schools, and community programs together to address and enhance the learning objectives identified in the BC Government’s Physical Health and Education provincial curriculum.

The goal of the program is for students to gain self-awareness and skills to identify and participate in healthy relationships, positive communication, and understand the difference between consent and coercion.

“We are evidence informed. We aim to be gender inclusive. We are intersectional trauma-informed and survivor and learner centered,” said Pawliuk. “We’ve been very intentional in the design of this program because we wanted to ensure that what we are doing was sensitive to the needs of every learner group.”

Over the past year, approximately 133 students have participated in a total of five Consent Cafes at various schools within the District and through support from the Board of Education, Twin Rivers Education Centre (TREC) was among those hosts.

“At Twin Rivers, we identified an area of need with our students and came up with a plan to support students who have experienced sexual violence, as well as doing prevention work at the same time,” said TREC vice-principal Dyan Gunnlaugson.

“The Canadian average of self-reported sexual assault is 2% of the population, however, we know that in Canada, out of every 100 assaults that happen, only six are reported to RCMP. For Indigenous women, the sexual violence rates are up to 11 times higher,” said Gunnlaugson. “I think what’s also important to recognize is that our students aren’t necessarily the victims of this violence when they’re our student,” further explained the vice-principal. “Often, it might be that the trauma is what actually has triggered their move to alternative education [like TREC].”

“This really impacts all schools, not just ours.”

Kenzie Martin, a student who recently participated in a Consent Café, told the Board about her experience: “I feel like if we were all taught at a young age what consent is, some situations could be prevented. I already had a general knowledge of consent but I learned more about physical, sexual, and online consent at the Café. “

“[The program] works because we meet the participants where they’re at, where they’re learning, where they’re building relationships, of knowledge acquisition, and where they’re learning to navigate consent every day,” said Pawliuk.

With CommunityLINK funding and a City of Kamloops 2022 Social and Community Development Grant, the future is bright for Consent Cafés in the District: every grade 8 student will be provided the opportunity to participate in the program in the 2022/2023 school year.

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