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Campaign to focus on alcohol, consent, sexual assault

April 1, 2009

A new, student-designed public awareness ad campaign will promote the importance of gaining consent from sexual partners, particularly when alcohol is involved.

Ads with the tagline “Some things should never be blurry. Get consent every time” will start appearing on Madison Metro buses early this month, which is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The campaign was created by the UW–Madison student organization PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) as an outgrowth of combined efforts by multiple student groups, campus staff and Adams Outdoor Advertising to address the problem of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault.

“We wanted to incorporate the idea that while drinking might cause impaired judgment, there’s no excuse for taking advantage of someone else,” says Katie Simons, PAVE’s media advocate and co-developer of the campaign.

“We want students to have a good time, but when they drink and hook up, there are simple things they can do to ensure that they’re engaging in safe, consensual sexual activity,” Simons adds.

True consent really isn’t blurry, experts say: It is freely given between adults through express words or overt actions. Alcohol diminishes the capacity to give consent, of which perpetrators often take advantage.

“Everyone has a responsibility to get consent from their sexual partner,” says PAVE chair Ally Cruickshank, “particularly when alcohol is involved.”

PAVE will also distribute stickers, bottle openers, key chains and bookmarks labeled “Consent isn’t blurry” and “Get consent every time” to UW–Madison students to help foster conversation about respecting boundaries around alcohol use and sexual activity. A Facebook group and series of events will round out the campaign.

The group hopes the campaign will encourage students to speak up when they see situations that look potentially harmful.

“Alcohol is the most frequently used predatory drug, something we used to call a ‘date rape drug,’” says Carmen Hotvedt, PAVE’s adviser and violence prevention specialist at University Health Services.

“It’s important to know about the other drugs used to incapacitate victims,” Hotvedt adds, “but we often spend more time talking about those than we do about alcohol.”

For a full listing of Sexual Assault Awareness Month events on campus, see the events calendar on the PAVE site.

For a calendar of events around Madison, see the Rape Crisis Center site.

This year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month events include:

Sex Signals, 8 p.m., Monday, April 6, Ogg Main Lounge

Using improvisational comedy, education and audience participation, Sex Signals provides a provocative look at the issues of dating, sex and acquaintance rape on college campuses.

  • Jennifer Baumgardner, “I Was Raped”: Lecture, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 16, Ebling Symposium Center, 1220 Microbial Sciences Building. Documentary screening: 7 p.m., Monday, April 20, Memorial Union Play Circle Theater.
  • Take Back the Night march and rally: Saturday, April 18, starts from Library Mall at 5:30 p.m., marches up State Street to Capitol.
  • Stephanie Greiner, “Just Trust Me”: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 23, Red Gym Media Room. Greiner shares her struggle of overcoming alcohol-facilitated sexual assault to both educate and empower UW–Madison students.