Alan Berkowitz, Ph.D. – Epigeum Consultant
The rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment in universities globally indicate that there is a serious problem and that prevention must become a priority. Universities have sought effective means of educating their students about these issues and engaging them as part of the solution. The Epigeum Consent Matters course represents a state-of-the-art response to this need.
The healthy majority paradox
Any attempt to reduce sexual assault must address a paradox: while there are some individuals (usually men) who have a pattern of taking sexual advantage of others, most university students make sure that they have consent and are uncomfortable with sexually harassing and coercive behaviour. Research also indicates that these students – who represent the silent, healthy majority – can have an impact in preventing the coercive behavior of the minority.
Consent Matters is designed with these facts in mind and attempts to engage the healthy majority to do several things:
- Make sure that they have consent when they choose to be sexually intimate
- Notice situations when others are engaging in language or behavior that could lead to harassment or sexual assault
- Realise that they are not alone in their concern
- Be “active bystanders” who act on their concern in safe and effective ways.
By doing these things it effectively synthesises the “social norms approach” and “bystander intervention” – the two approaches to prevention most supported by current research and science.
An evidence-based approach
The fact that the course content and design incorporates these research-based approaches to sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention means it is “science-based” and based on the current state of the art. In addition, the team of experts who helped design the course use examples, language and information that is culturally appropriate for its audience of students new to university and living in the UK and Australia. This tailored approach is another requirement of effective prevention.
Student response to Consent Matters
“ [This course] makes learning about consent less intimidating… the examples of situations and conversations are useful and show people that everyone has a relationship to consent, whether they’re having sex or not.”
Student at Royal Holloway, University of London
Students will find the course engaging, relevant to their lives, and positive. Student voice is embedded within the course, through the animations, vox pops and more. The overall approach taken is positive and affirmative, encouraging students to reflect on their personal values and experiences. Completing the course will equip them to answer the all important question: “How can I best contribute to solving these serious societal problems?”.
Alan Berkowitz is an internationally recognised expert in sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention. He is based in the United States where he serves as a consultant to the U.S. Government, to universities, health departments and to the U.S. military. His work has served as a model for sexual assault prevention efforts internationally, and he has won five national awards for his work. In addition, he is a prolific scholar and researcher and has written a book on bystander behaviour. For more information about Alan and his work go to: www.alanberkowitz.com
Consent Matters: Boundaries and Respect and Positive Intervention is now available for free institutional trials: register your interest here