Adopting a Consent-based Approach

A consent-based approach for teaching gender-based violence prevention is rooted in teaching students about healthy relationships. It is a proactive approach to reducing, eliminating, and preventing gender-based violence. When students understand what consent is and learn to view situations through the lens of consent, they learn that it is possible to have a healthy relationship with others in which everyone is respected.

When discussing gender-based violence, it is critical to create a culture of respect in which all individuals feel safe. Students’ decisions about how to act in a situation should be centered in the idea that all individuals deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. It is not enough to base decisions on who’s “at fault,” the possibility of “getting caught,” or strictly what the law says. A culture of respect is built by reframing conversations to move away from issues of law and toward making decisions based on respect and a deep understanding of consent, to help students formulate their decisions and actions based on respecting the rights of all individuals.

A consent-based approach to gender-based violence prevention includes helping students understand that consent is voluntary, sober, and enthusiastic, and it can never be assumed. Consent includes knowing and respecting one’s own boundaries as well as the boundaries of others.

Teaching students about the skills of consent – such as recognizing and respecting consent and practising skills to support their ability to relate positively to others – provides them with the skills to leave a situation that feels uncomfortable, to respect when other people want to do the same, and to help prevent sexual coercion, harassment, and assault.

Educators should note that a variety of key terms are used when promoting healthy relationships. Consider reviewing these terms in order to help students become familiar with and use the correct terminology and to enhance discussions with students. For a list of key terms see Ideas for Action: Growth and Development.