Let’s talk about sex

If someone is too drunk to speak, then they are too drunk to consent. But not all students are aware of where the boundaries lie. A campaign by the Groningen Feminist Network – Let’s Talk About Sex – aims to inform new students about sexual consent and assault.
By Traci White

According to GFN president and founder Kimberly Mallone Crossley, the Let’s Talk About Sex campaign’s main goal is to open student’s eyes to what consent and harassment actually mean. ‘Some people don’t understand that if someone is too drunk to speak, that means they’re too drunk to consent’, she explains.

Sexual harassment at the RUG 

How common are sexual harassment and unwanted advances within the university? In 2016, the RUG’s confidential advisor Marijke Dam received 13 reported cases of sexual intimidation: eleven came from women (seven students, three PhD candidates and one staff member) and two came from men (both PhD candidates). There were also three reports of stalking, all of which were filed by students against other students. Six reports of sexual harassment were about colleagues, three were about instructors, two were about students and two were classified as ‘other’.

The students who filed reports of sexual harassment felt that the matter should be addressed by the university as an institution or at least by the academic programme they were enrolled in. In two such cases, students indicated receiving unwanted sexual advances from their instructors or another superior, ‘wherein the unwanted nature of the advances primarily stemmed from the strong degree of dependency which exists in such a relationship.’

Exciting and dangerous

Although the definitive plans are still coming together, the GFN will be covering the city with posters about consent, safe sex, and sexual harassment laws during the KEI week in August. As part of the introduction week, the group is planning to host events focused on consent and to distribute leaflets from their stand at the KEI market with information on where to go if you have been harassed or to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Similar plans are in the works for the ESN introduction week for international students a few weeks later.

Crossley says that reaching students during the introduction weeks is crucial. ‘Your time at university is exciting and dangerous. Some students are just 17 or 18 and are away from home for the first time’, she says. ‘And everyone should be made to feel safe and feel like they are in control. There needs to be more education on what constitutes harassment and rape, and that should focus on guys as well.’


But the campaign extends to the rest of the city, too. To that end, Crossley says that the GFN encourages students to download and use an app called ‘Hollaback!’, where people can use their mobile phones to pinpoint places where they experienced street harassment and describe what happened to them.

‘I’ve been catcalled in Dutch on the Poelestraat’, Crossley recalls. ‘I was at a club once with a friend and a guy was trying to introduce me to his friend, and I was like…‘ – she waves both of her hands in front of her and smiles, reenacting a polite decline of the invitation – ‘and then he called me a bitch in Spanish. I was with a Spanish-speaking friend, so she understood him and she took off after him.’

Crossley feels that while individual stories of sexual assault are horrifying and shocking, the more pervasive and subtle forms of sexual harassment should be taken equally seriously. ‘When you speak to some women on the streets, they’ll say that they don’t think that catcalling is really a problem in Groningen – except at night. It shows what you’re willing to accept as normal, but I think that feeling unsafe anywhere at any time in such a small town is strange.’


Where to go

Where can you go at the university or in the city if you are a victim of sexual harassment or assault?

Centrum Seksueel Geweld (Centre for Sexual Violence): Available 24 hours a day via telephone: 0800-0188

Rape victims can reach out to the CSG, an organisation which consists of doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and police officers. The CSG seeks to help victims with the physical and the mental consequences of sexual assault.

Groningen domestic violence shelter: 050-3180011

The location of the domestic violence shelter in Groningen is kept secret in order to protect the people who are staying there, but victims of violence at the hands of their partner or a family member can contact them 24 hours a day for help and accommodation. The shelter is available for women and children who have been mentally, physically or sexually abused or have been threatened.

Student Service Centre: Uurwerkersgang 10, open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While the SSC focuses primarily on helping students with questions about better study techniques and providing support for those with learning disorders, this university office also brings young people into contact with counsellors and psychologists.

Confidential advisor: Visserstraat 47-49, open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (by appointment)

Reports filed to SSC are immediately forwarded to Marijke Dam, the university contact person for students and staff who have been the victims of ‘undesirable conduct’. That includes discrimination, work conflicts, stalking, sexual harassment or violence.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here