A new initiative launched at Algonquin is striving to change the perception of the concept of consent and spread the message that sexual violence is never okay.

The initiative stems from a campaign launched by the provincial government last year and has been in the works since last March. That’s when the college implemented a directive outlining Algonquin’s policies and procedures for handling sexual assault on campus.

The directive clearly defines and lays out lines of responsibility, consent, the college’s obligations and other policies that better define sexual assault.

Earl Green, manager of security services, praised the directive and said that it has become a valuable tool for both security services and survivors of sexual assault.

“It gave us a comprehensive tool for survivors,” said Green. “They’re not going to be ridiculed, they will be believed.”

The initiative is aspiring to help educate students about what constitutes consent, according to Mary-Ann Hansen, the outreach counsellor for counselling services, who is directly involved with the campaign committee and a prevention aspect of the program called bringing in the bystander workshop.

“It’s quite amazing for how many students that’s a foreign concept,” said Hansen.

Bringing in the bystander will train students to be active bystanders and take action when witness to an assault.

She has high hopes that the project will make a difference and continue to have an impact on the next generation of students across all campuses, including her own daughter.

“When I think about in a few years her going off to school, presumably, you know, I want it to be a safe place. I want to know that she will have the tools she needs and that the people that surround her will have the tools they need to help keep her safe and keep themselves safe.”

The campaign itself is spearheaded by Student Services, and is being overseen by SS associate director, Jeffrey Agate.

However, counseling services and Health Services are also on board.

It was officially launched on Jan. 12 with a series of four videos posted to the Student Services Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages using the hashtag #ItsNeverOkay.

Each video features different people setting out what is consent, what is sexual assault, what resources are available to students and what can be done to prevent an assault.

According to Agate, the first round of social media posts relating to the campaign lead up to an event called Consent Fest taking place from Feb. 2 to Feb. 5.

The event will host YouTube sex educator Laci Green and women’s rights advocate Julie Lalonde and will promote the concept of consent with the goal of preventing future assaults from taking place.

Hansen is optimistic that the Consent Fest event will help promote the campaign and encourage student involvement in future workshops or other events.

“If it can be student driven then all the better,” she said.