Wednesday, Sept. 26 marked the beginning of WEconSent, a seven-part sexual violence awareness and prevention series taught by Counseling and Psychological Services Therapist and Sexual Violence Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren. Warren will take on the bulk of the training and teaching, but other students, faculty, and administrators are welcome to contribute their own expertise on particular topics.
“The first session provided an overview of sexual assault and explored rape culture on Wesleyan’s campus, specifically, and in society,” Warren wrote in an email to The Argus. “A number of topics will be discussed throughout the series including community organizing as a prevention strategy, intimate partner violence, stalking, bystander intervention, survivors from traditionally marginalized communities, best practice in sexual violence education ,and how to facilitate challenging discussions.”
Warren decided to incorporate student input into the organization of the series. She worked with Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) intern Rachel Verner ’15 to gain a student’s perspective on the program.
“After speaking with a number of students last semester about sexual violence programming on campus, I developed the idea for the series to provide a venue where students could learn more about the issue of sexual violence, best practices in sexual violence education, and learn skills to facilitate challenging conversations,” Warren wrote. “I spoke with Rachel Verner…and a number of other students to gauge interest and gather feedback. I received overwhelming support for the series. I’m very excited to offer it this semester and can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.”
As the SART intern, Verner acts as a liaison between students and resources for sexual violence, both on and off campus. She underscored the importance of the WEconSent series.
“This series is important because it will train students to address the issue of sexual violence on a broader scale,” Verner wrote in an email to The Argus. “The focus on preparing students to run and organize programming will hopefully help to break down rape culture on campus and in the broader community.”
Combating rape culture and sexual violence on campus is what drew Chloe Jeng ’15 to the program. Jeng has signed up for the series and attended the first session.
“I chose to take part in WEconSent because sexual violence is such a prevalent issue at Wesleyan, and it has impacted so many of our lives,” Jeng explained. “The number of students on this campus who either know someone who’s been sexually assaulted or who have experienced sexual assault themselves is much too large. While Wesleyan has taken huge strides in recent years to try to combat sexual violence, I think there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are better supported in dealing with the aftermath of such an earth-shattering event.”
Vice President of Students for Consent Communication Billy Donnelly ’15 said that he hopes WEconSent can build off the success of previous consent-oriented workshops.
“Last year we hosted some consent workshops to educate people on how consent can be communicated in relationships,” Donnelly said. “Alysha [Warren] has always been doing really great work. I think the WEconSent workshops will be beneficial in spreading awareness and educating people.”
Verner believes that the series will equip attendees with the necessary skills to combat sexual violence on campus through bystander intervention.
“The program will hopefully leave students with strong bystander intervention skills, and all students that participate will lead and develop programming over the course of the semester,” Verner wrote. “The goal is to create a more empowered community, and one in which members recognize that this is a serious issue for all.”
Jeng affirmed Verner’s vision for fighting sexual violence.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of best practices in sexual violence education and programming, and to build skills for facilitating the difficult conversations that surround the topic of sexual violence,” Jeng said. “Also, I would like to bring attention to the issue of rape culture and try to make our community safer via education about preventing sexual violence.”
Andrew Trexler ’14, Vice President of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, will also be attending the series. Trexler started a Consent Pledge last year as part of the efforts to combat rape culture and sexual violence.
“WEconSent is a more comprehensive training program,” Trexler said. “I’m hoping that it will widen the range of people who have the tools to work through issues related to this topic on a person-to-person level. Many people on campus have done a lot of great work, but that’s not everybody. It’s an issue that’s relevant to everybody, whether or not they recognize that.”