England

Oxford and Cambridge University sexual consent courses start

A rape victim has welcomed the introduction of sexual consent workshops at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

The woman, who says she was raped at Oxford University after a drinking game, said they were "long overdue".

She said: "I hope Oxbridge will be leading the way here and they'll be offered not only at other universities but also at schools."

The workshops are compulsory at a number of the universities' colleges.

'Huge step'

The woman, who wants to be known as Maria Marcello, wrote online on a blog that she was raped as she lay passed out on her bed after drinking.

Of the workshops she said: "Obviously it won't stop rape altogether, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

"It's crucial they're compulsory or the people who need to go won't go, but they're also important to reduce victim-blaming attitudes in colleges - we want to not only combat rape itself, but also rape culture."

The workshops, which will take place in groups of about 10, are compulsory in 22 of the 30 Oxford colleges running them.

In Cambridge, 20 out of the university's 31 colleges will run workshops marked as a compulsory part of freshers week.

Oxford University Student Union vice president and organiser Anna Bradshaw said she wanted "to break the culture of silence".

'No means no'

"A more healthy culture of enthusiastic consent we think would be about looking for the consent, making sure that you have got it, feeling sure of it, then you don't get into these murky questions of, 'was she too drunk? Or maybe she was just about OK?'," she said.

"It is important that people understand no means no," said Linda Darrall, from Thames Valley Victim Support, who welcomed the courses.

A survey by the National Union of Students revealed last month suggested one in every in four students is groped or harassed while at university.

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