Senior Director of Public Engagement and Editor of SHE magazine at the Canadian Women’s Foundation
Diane Hill has been a writer and social issue researcher for over 15 years. She’s also worked as an auto mechanic, graphic designer, planning technician, therapy dog handler, office cleaner, and factory worker. She is a graduate of the Assaulted Women's and Children's Counsellor/Advocate program at George Brown College and has a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. She is currently Senior Director of Public Engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation and editor of their biannual magazine, SHE. Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Reader’s Digest, More, and Best Health. For fun, she sings and plays guitar in a cheerfully slapdash cover band, The Brunettes.
The park is almost dark. As I watch my shadow, I notice my hips swaying back and forth as I walk. I wonder if my walk is provocative. I am alone on the path. I wish there was someone else around, then I think: "But what if it's a guy? Or two guys?" These are women's thoughts. These thoughts spring from the subconscious knowledge that we are never safe. At any moment, we might be targeted, perhaps hunted like an animal. We are always potential prey. In our attempts to stay safe, we behave. We speak politely and avoid eye contact. We twist our lives and stay small. In the process, we can become completely detached from who we might have been.
At college and university frosh weeks across Canada, conversations about consent and rape culture are increasingly being added. Some universities have worked with local women's organizations to create brilliant educational campaigns. But good examples of proactive conversations around consent are still rare and reveal a shockingly patchwork approach to a very serious issue with a very high price.
A new study from the Canadian Women's Foundation found that while almost all Canadians agree that sexual activity between partners should be consensual, two-thirds do not understand what consent means. If you can't tell if someone is consenting, ask: "Are you okay with this?" Encourage them to answer honestly. Decent people treat others with respect, especially when it comes to something as intimate as sexual activity. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. It's all pretty simple.