Wondering who the friendly people are at every festival handing out condoms, making cool buttons and sometimes dressing up like superheroes?
If you’ve been to a big event or festival in Yukon, you’ve probably seen the Consent Crew. Made up of four coordinating members and a team of enthusiastic volunteers, the Consent Crew uses conversations and games to get people talking about consent and healthy sexual and interpersonal relationships.
“The Consent Crew is all about encouraging folks to understand and participate in consent— from a hug from your aunt to having sex,” said Jess Stone, program co-ordinator at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre and one of a number of Consent Crew co-ordinators. “We want to educate folks on engaging in safer sexual health practices and provide some tools to do so. We want to keep people of all ages talking about and understanding consent and try to be those conversation starters.”
At the heart of the Consent Crew is a belief that, through this ongoing education and conversation, the high number of sexualized assaults that happen year over year in the Yukon will be reduced. To give a sense of numbers, each year in Canada, it is estimated there are 600,000 sexualized assaults. In the Yukon, the rates are 3.5 times higher than the national average.
The Consent Crew plays an important role in getting people talking and learning about consent throughout their lives.
“By educating and encouraging people to practice consent and hold others to the same expectations,” said Stone. “We hope to reduce the prevalence of sexualized assault in the Yukon and work alongside many organizations to keep reducing acceptance of sexualized violence.”
It began with a need
The Yukon Consent Crew has been around for almost a decade. It began in 2010 when a Les EssentiElles staff member saw the need to educate people about consent. She approached other women’s groups and organizations and the Crew was officially formed. In 2018, the Crew was made up of co-ordinators representing Les EssentiElles, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre (which has been on the Crew since its inception), Yukon Status of Women Council, and 16 volunteers.
Last year (2018) was a busy year for the Crew. They handed out 350 safe sex products, made 700 buttons touting consent slogans, talked to 1,000 people and had 200 participants in a quiz game.
The process of unlearning
While the summertime for the Crew is spent spreading consent at festivals and big events, during the school year, it offers workshops for high schools and youth groups. In these workshops, the Crew and youth have conversations about scenarios and consent where they challenge ideas that are widely held in society, including that the victim could have done something to stop the assault from happening. These workshops lead to some great moments and some favourite memories for the Crew.
“One of my absolute favorite moments is in school presentations and we are discussing an example of a sexualized assault, asking what factors could have prevented the assault and generally we hear about the victim,” said Stone.
“(They will say) ‘she could have brought her mom, worn a spacesuit and/or suit of armour, brought her squad and should have asked for a meeting in a public place’ and so on.
(But in maybe) one out of every 15 presentations someone will eventually say ‘they could have not assaulted the other person?’ There it is—my favourite moment —the recognition of the ingrained social response of victim-blaming. I do not get tired of that look of unlearning.”
Where you’ll see them this year
The Crew will be at Pride, Dawson City Music Festival, Atlin Arts and Music Festival, Paradise Music Festival, and Keno Music Fest.
How to get involved
Want to join the Crew and help spread conversations and consent across Yukon? They are always looking for volunteers.
[box] This article is part of a series of stories for Sexualized Assault Prevention Month, an annual inter-agency campaign designed to engage all folks as allies to prevent sexualized violence in our community. The series features the people, projects, and organizations across Yukon who are working to reduce the incidence and impacts of sexualized assault in our community. Visit EndViolenceYukon.com for more information about the campaign.[/box]