You know who they are when you see them; they walk around festival grounds with dozens of colourful buttons pinned to them, smiles on their faces, pen and paper in hands, ready to turn your beer-tent-small-talk into a debate about sexualized assault.
For the fourth year in a row, the francophone women’s group Les EssentiElles is recruiting volunteers to raise awareness about sexual consent amongst the festivalgoers of the territory. The campaign promotes the idea that asking for sexual consent is fun.
“It’s about striking up a conversation and breaking down the variety of myths that exist around the issue,” explains Scott Carlson.
He’s the project coordinator of Engaging Yukon Men and Boys.
Natascha Harvey, project coordinator for Les EssentiElles, adds, “for a lot of people, when you say ‘rape’ they think of a stranger in a back alley. But the reality is that in the Yukon, 92 per cent of sexualized assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
“We target everyone — men and women. The more people are aware about sexualized assaults, the less likely they will be to look away next time it takes place in front of them.”
This year, the slogan of the campaign is “Ask For It, Get Consent”.
Harvey explains that the original “Consent Is Sexy” campaign sent mixed messages: “We want people to think of sexual consent as something fun, but no one should feel obliged to give consent in order to be sexy. Consent isn’t just sexy, it’s the law.”
Carlson explains they are also stepping away from campaigns like the Edmonton “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign that condemns the assaulters.
“We have a very positive and pro-active approach that encourages people to ask for consent and to understand what a sexualized assault is. We don’t want anyone to feel accused or defensive.”
For future campaigns, Les Essentielles want to extend the reach of consent campaigns to sporting events and bars.
“We want to target more places and events where there are social interactions in contact of alcohol,” says Harvey.
Carlson explains that attitudes towards alcohol can lead to sexualized assault: “Alcohol is too often seen as a legitimate way to sleep with someone.”
Volunteers are offered free training, and passes to festivals in which they campaign. Men are encouraged to apply. If you’d like to get involved, get in touch with [email protected].