Why consent matters during COVID-19
By Natalie Lim
While we continue taking precautions against COVID-19 this fall by wearing masks and washing our hands, SFU’s Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office is keeping the SFU community safe and healthy in a different way—by reminding us that consent matters, even during a time of physical distancing.
The SVSPO runs the annual Consent Matters campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence by educating the SFU community on the definition of consent, why it matters, and how to practise it. This year’s campaign has been re-imagined to address the changing nature of relationships during COVID-19.
“I see Consent Matters as a community care effort,” says Paola Quiros, an educator at the SVSPO. “We care deeply about the well-being of the SFU community, which is why we’re moving forward with the campaign and initiating these important conversations about consent.
“With the move towards online-based relationships, we actually need to think about consent a lot more, and not just in a romantic context. Looking for simple ways to respect other people’s boundaries—like asking whether someone is comfortable turning on their camera in a Zoom meeting—are great opportunities to practise consent in our daily lives.”
This week, the SVSPO is releasing a series of helpful tips around what practising consent should look like in daily life, and asking SFU staff and faculty members to share why consent matters to them.
“Some people see ‘consent’ as a foreign term or a new skill, and it’s not at all,” says Quiros. “We practise consent with our friends and family all the time. Once we recognize that, it becomes easier to bring this idea of consent into other areas of our lives, like romantic or sexual relationships.”
Alongside educational programming like Consent Matters, the SVSPO has been providing support services to the SFU community throughout the pandemic. Students, faculty and staff who have been impacted by sexual violence and misconduct—or who are simply looking for information and resources—can access free and confidential support via email, text, phone, video drop-in hours or by remote appointment.
“We want to support our clients in ways that are most comfortable for them,” says Melanie Crudgington, a case manager with the SVSPO. “Some folks may need information on reporting options or referrals to counselling and other supports; others may just want to talk with someone. Whatever folks may need, we’re here to listen and provide support.”
“Especially right now, when people may feel isolated, we want to remind the SFU community that they’re not alone,” adds Quiros.
“And we want to remind them that it takes all of us to foster a culture of consent, care and respect at SFU.”
Follow along with Consent Matters and keep up-to-date with the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office by following the office on Facebook and Instagram, or by signing up for the SVSPO newsletter. You can also join the SVSPO on and a panel of guests on Sept. 30 for a conversation on cyberconsent.
If you have been impacted by sexual violence, the SVSPO can help. Learn more about the resources available to you.