We have some amazing students at Kent and we want to celebrate them with our new Kent Stars campaign. Filipa is our Kent Star this month, recognised for her inspiring work on the ‘Consent. Get It. Full Stop.’ campaign. Hear from Consent Champion Filipa:
“I’m Filipa Paes, and I’m about to wrap up the final year of my Law degree at Kent. Despite thoroughly enjoying my law degree I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn’t be studying Philosophy instead. But I guess, when it was time to choose, Law won – perhaps because of my interest in social change.”
Tell us about ‘Consent. Get it. Full stop.’ What is it and how did it come about?
“After presiding over the student group UKC Respect the No in 2019/2020, I joined forces with the University of Kent to create the ‘Consent. Get It. Full Stop.’ campaign, a university-wide project that aims to cultivate and strengthen a culture of consent in our community.
Consent and sexual violence are complex topics to bring into conversations – often raising eyebrows and producing uncomfortable smiles. This feeling of ‘killing the vibe’ in the conversation stops many from getting involved and even standing up in situations where others are in danger. In the last year, however, following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, we have witnessed an increasing number of people discussing this challenging subject. Amongst other things, these murders are reminders that sexual violence is a problem and that we should put all our efforts into tackling this issue in our society, regardless of the degree of violence and extremism in each case and the amount of media (and social media) attention received.
With the launching of this consent campaign, we hope to shift the culture. By placing sex-positive messaging at its forefront and having student feedback as one of its chief ingredients, we invite all students and staff to participate in the conversation in any way they can. We want everyone to feel confident in their understanding of consent, how to practise it (without making it awkward!) and how to be active bystanders.
In the last few months, I’ve been working closely with Becky Wyatt, the University’s Specialist Adviser for Sexual Assault and Harassment. Together, we have talked to dozens of students, gathered their feedback and provided them with a forum to raise their concerns. We have been actively working on increasing transparency and accessibility by ensuring the University’s procedures, policies and expectations regarding sexual misconduct and assault are made clear and accessible to all. We have also increased the promotion of the specialist support for victims/survivors of sexual violence offered both within and outside the university so that everyone can get support and feel as safe as possible. The University’s internal support has also been made easier to access with the new reporting tool, Report + Support.
It has been an immense pleasure to work alongside Becky, and so many other great people across the University on this project and to see so many in our community – no matter their position at the University – getting involved.”
What advice would you give to other students?
“If I had to give anyone any piece of advice it would be to be perseverant (though others might put it as ‘stubborn’ or ‘annoying’) if you genuinely believe in a project’s potential to bring about change. This perseverance does need to come with full understanding that – in true consent fashion – you will hear loads of nos. Oh, and a pretty good skill to master is the ability to put together a sound logical argument! Driving change takes a lot of persuasion, convincing and arguing (and no quarrelling).”
What are your plans for the next year?
“As my three eventful years at Kent come to an end, I look forward to dedicating myself fully to philosophy. Though it might appear wholly detached from the notion of consent and the campaign, ‘consent’ is very much about communication (verbal or otherwise), which is my main interest. I’m remarkably interested in how we communicate with each other and use language. As such, I plan on continuing my studies and research in the philosophy of law and language, with the ultimate goal of helping us understand each other a bit better!”
Do you know an inspiring Kent student or student group? Let us know.