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Only yes means yes: Understanding sexual consent

Posted on September 10, 2021

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Please note: the following article describes hypothetical instances of sexual violence.

For many Vancouver Community College (VCC) students, a new term means new classmates and new relationships. Unfortunately, statistics show that one in eight people who identify as women experience sexual assault on B.C. campuses annually, and two-thirds of on-campus assaults occur during the first eight weeks of school.

This month, to raise awareness about sexual violence and help keep students safe, VCC is taking part in the B.C. government’s “...Is NOT Yes” campaign about sexual consent. 

Read the B.C. Government announcement: Sex without consent is rape.

What is sexual consent?

In short, sexual consent is a clear and enthusiastic “yes” to sexual activity.

Consent must be freely given. There’s only one way to know for sure if someone has given their consent: if they tell you. Just because someone isn’t saying “no,” does not mean that they are saying “yes.”

Consent must be enthusiastic and informed. Consent also cannot be given by individuals who are underage, intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, asleep, unconscious, or under intimidation or threat. This includes sexual contact by people using a position of authority over you e.g. teachers or bosses.

Consent is reversible. If one partner decides at any time that that they want to stop any sexual activity (even if it has already begun, or happened before), consent is no longer given. Just stop.

Examples of verbal and non-verbal ways of not communicating consent

 Verbal (using words)   Non-verbal 
  • No
  • I’m not sure
  • Stop
  • I want to, but...
  • That hurts
  • Maybe
  • I love you, but...
  • I don’t know how I feel about this
  • I don’t want to do this anymore
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Pushing someone away
  • Avoiding touch
  • Shaking head no
  • Uncomfortable being naked
  • Crying, looking sad or fearful 
  • Turning away from someone
  • Silence
  • Changing the topic


Learn more at SafeCampusBC.ca

SafeCampus posters

You may notice these posters on VCC campuses this term: 

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Help is available

VCC has a strict policy [PDF] and easy-to-understand procedures [PDF] addressing sexual violence. VCC employees are obliged to take reports of sexual violence seriously, offer support, and prioritize confidentiality. We recommend contacting the following departments with questions or to report sexual violence:

If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, please call 9-1-1.

For students

For employees

General