Consent culture is developing at a rapid pace in Ireland, but what is it like to be a consent workshop facilitator? Amy, Naomi, Caoimhe, and Saorla tell us about their experiences of recently acting as consent ambassadors at The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin.
Caoimhe is the Vice President for Welfare at NCAD, and she knew it was very important to create space for consent classes: ‘’I saw how valuable this education was and wanted to make sure the students of NCAD saw it too. This is so eye-opening for young people and gives them the vocabulary to express their consent in an informative way’’. Caoimhe worked with Active* Consent (based in NUIG) to train consent ambassadors like Amy, Naomi, and Saorla who rolled out the workshops in person for first-year students.
All the young women felt very strongly about the need to step up and contribute to a change on campus. Saorla explains why she became a consent ambassador:
I was interested because I feel really strongly about making my college a safe and inclusive place for everyone here. I know that a lot of students coming in to first year may not have learned a lot about consent, and it’s really important to talk openly about it and set the standard of behaviour.
Amy felt that she needed to become a facilitator as the issue of consent needs urgent attention:
‘People are not educated enough on this issue, and I decided to be a part of this workshop to help raise awareness and educate people in NCAD. Too many people have been affected by this issue and we need to change the behavioural norms in society.
Naomi shares that this is a personal issue for her as she has been a victim herself:
I wanted to help educate young people on the traumatizing and damaging effects of sexual violence and IBSA has on survivors or victims. Honestly, I just wanted to help empower other people so they hopefully never feel that they have to go through that experience alone, and to educate others so they wouldn’t be part of the problem.
Nerves are a normal part of life, and it was no surprise that these consent ambassadors had a few wobbles before the workshops. Amy felt that practising beforehand helped calm their nerves, and Saorla explains how she dealt with her nerves: ‘’I was so anxious! Public speaking normally makes me feel a bit shaky no matter how well prepared I am. I just tried to go over the presentations as well as I could and took deep breaths’’. All three ambassadors found that the students were very keen to learn and felt glad that these workshops were happening on their campus, even if it is a difficult topic.
Naomi, Saorla and Amy all said that delivering the workshop meant that they felt more confident speaking in front of strangers and helped them to have open conversations with family and friends too. Naomi explains how her confidence increased through her activism: “…not only did being an Active* Consent facilitator help me support a cause that is really important to me, but I feel that it also helped me become a more confident and empathetic speaker to large groups. All in all, it was truly an educational experience and I really recommend for you to take part in spreading and raising awareness on the importance of consent, and to defend and protect survivors. It’s such an important message to be aware of, so even just calling out your friends and family is so helpful. Change always begins with small steps!” Amy also found positive benefits to running the workshops: ‘’I felt very accomplished after the workshop. I was very proud of myself for being a part of such a brilliant initiative and for raising the awareness to make NCAD a safer and more acceptable campus.’’
Advice for wannabe facilitators
If you would like to become a consent ambassador when you go to college, the ambassadors have some advice for you. Naomi stresses the importance of self-care when doing this work: ‘‘It’s important to remember that we’re handling a very serious and triggering topic, so be gentle with your audience, and give them space if they need to step out. It’s also important to remember to take care of yourselves and your well-being.’’
The experience was an overwhelmingly positive one, as Saorla says: ‘It feels good to know that I’m doing what I can to create a safe and happy environment. It’s also kind of humbling because consent is obviously such a hugely important issue’’.
Caoimhe reminds us why consent workshops are important for personal development: ‘’It is so good to open the conversation about consent and it builds a foundation for students to build upon as they go through life’’.
If you would like to become a consent ambassador at college, speak to your student union welfare officer. You can also head over to https://activeconsent.usi.ie/ to learn how to support your friends and take a short eLearning module to enhance your consent education. We can all play a part in building consent culture in Ireland, today.
We would like to say a massive thank you to the team at Active* Consent for taking the time to write a guest post for us! You can follow them on Instagram and keep up to date with all times Active* Consent.