Learn about sexual consent, how to protect yourself and ways to support others.
What is sexual consent?
Sexual consent is about saying “yes” to sex and about respecting other people’s right to say “no” – whether they are communicating this verbally or non-verbally, at any stage of having sex or physical contact, and at any point in a relationship.
Sexual consent is explained easily using the Tea Consent analogy (YouTube).
Sexual activity without consent is against the law – it is classed as rape or sexual assault.
Sexual violence is a broad term which can include any kind of unwanted, non-consensual sexual touching or harassment. This could include rape, sexual assault, or any kind of verbal, emotional or physical abuse of a sexual nature. Sexual violence is a non-legal, all-encompassing term.
Sexual harassment involves the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.
Sexual violence and harassment affect people of all ages, genders, cultures and sexual orientations, and can be perpetrated by a stranger, someone you know, or someone you are in a relationship with.
Studies have shown that sexual violence is common in UK universities.
Reporting an incident
The University of Sussex is committed to providing a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for every member of its community.
If you or someone else has experienced behaviours such as bullying, harassment, a hate incident, sexual violence, domestic abuse or discrimination, you can let us know using our Report and Support tool.
All staff, students and visitors to our campus can use Report and Support to:
- find information and access University and specialist support services
- make a report to the University so that an advisor can talk you through options for support or further action
- make an anonymous report to make the University aware of your experience – we will be unable to respond to or take specific action on an anonymous report.
Find out more about what to do if you have recently experienced rape or sexual assault.
Active bystander intervention
A bystander is any person who is present at an event or incident but does NOT take part.
If we become aware of a situation that makes us concerned about the safety of someone else, we can draw on a range of techniques. By doing so, we are making it clear that someone’s behaviour is out of line and that the person impacted has our support. Our community can be positively impacted by our words and actions, rather than letting things slide when something’s not right.
Remember, in an emergency call the police on 999, and never put yourself in danger. Only intervene if it’s safe to do so, and keep in mind the four Ds – direct, distract, delegate, delay.
‘Call out’ negative behaviour directly, tell the person to stop what they’re doing. Or ‘call in’ the person to a calm discussion about the impact of their behaviour. Be calm and polite and avoid escalating the situation.
Find a way to distract either the person who is behaving inappropriately, or to allow the person impacted a chance to leave the situation and return to a safer space. This could look like finding something else to talk about with the person whose behaviour is a problem. Or telling the person you’re worried about that they have a phone call they need to answer, or that a friend wants to talk to them elsewhere.
If it’s not safe to do or say something yourself, ‘delegate’ this issue by asking for assistance from someone else. This could mean asking security for help, or discussing a situation with a member of staff, for example.
In some situations, it may not feel safe or appropriate to do or say something at the time. A good approach might be to instead find the person you’re worried about later on and ask if they’re ok, or raise the matter with staff or security when the situation has defused.
This bystander video (YouTube) shows a fictional scenario leading up to a rape, and the ways in which people within the scenario could have been active bystanders. It does not show the rape itself, but may be triggering to some people.
Consent Matters – online course
We want to have a conversation about relationships, sex and consent, so that you have an enjoyable and safe time at Sussex.
Consent Matters is a free online course all about consent, respect, boundaries and positive intervention. The course is open to all students and staff, and covers four areas:
- thinking about consent
- communication skills and relationships
- looking out for others
- support available for victims.
You can enrol and complete the course on Canvas. This course contains references to sexual violence so you may wish to avoid completing certain parts.