Warwick University 'consent workshop' row: What does a rapist look like?

Josie Throup Image copyright Josie Throup
Image caption Josie Throup responded to George Lawlor's sign, which said "This is not what a rapist looks like", with one of her own

Student George Lawlor hit the headlines when he wrote of his anger at being invited to a university "consent workshop".

"I don't have to be taught to not be a rapist," he wrote of the National Union of Student's I Heart Consent campaign - aimed at combating sexual harassment and assault.

In a parody of the scheme's pledge cards, Mr Lawlor posted a picture of himself holding a sign that said: "This is not what a rapist looks like."

"But that's exactly what a rapist looks like - a normal member of society," said Josie Throup, who runs the consent workshop at the University of Warwick.

Dark alley 'myth'

She told the BBC: "Obviously, I'm not suggesting for one minute this guy is a rapist. But 80% of rape survivors know their attacker.

"So when you post a picture and say 'this is not what a rapist looks like' you're wrong.

"A rapist looks like someone on your course, someone you work with, a friend, a neighbour, a date.

"Suggesting a rapist does not look like an ordinary man or woman - that's perpetuating the myth that rapists are strangers lurking in dark alleys.

"In The I Heart Consent workshops, we have a myth-busting exercise, where we might look at that particular assumption and how that reinforces rape culture.

"A rape survivor attacked by someone they know in their own home might think they could not report it to police because it does not fit 'the stranger in a dark alley' idea of what rape is.

"Equally, an attacker who has non-consensual sex with someone they know in their own home might think it isn't rape for the same reason.

"Those are the sorts of ideas we are challenging in the consent workshops."

Image copyright George Lawlor
Image caption Student George Lawlor said the invitation to a consent workshop was an "insult"

So far the workshops have been targeted at members of sports teams and societies.

"I want to make it clear that we are not attacking sports teams," said Ms Throup. "But the NUS That's What She Said report talks a lot about lad culture and drinking associated with sports teams.

"And it highlights sexual harassment and violence as being very much related to lad culture."

In her reply to Mr Lawlor on the Warwick Tab, Ms Throup posted a picture of herself holding a sign that said: "This is what a consent educator looks like."

She wrote: "I know that on this campus, sports teams chant songs about rape.

"A friend of mine from a club told me about a pre-drinks ritual in which members of his club raised their voices as one in the chant.

"An exec member who had attended an I Heart Consent workshop last year told them to stop."

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Lawlor said the furore surrounding his article had been "difficult" and that some people had got the wrong end of the stick.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The University of Warwick is running NUS I Heart Consent workshops

He said: "I feel as if people are focusing too much on the picture which, to be frank, was probably a faux pas on my part.

"People are saying, of course a rapist can look like me or my demographic.

"I meant 'This is not what a rapist looks like' in terms of me as an individual.

"It's not about gender, class or ethnicity. It's was about me, personally, being offended, as a human being and an individual.

"I'm happy with Josie's response because we have the same end - to help people. It's just the way we go about doing it is different.

"I still believe the workshops are not the best way of helping these people.

"The way I learned not to mistreat people was through my upbringing."

He added: "Reading some of the comments on news articles, a lot of people get what I'm trying to say.

"I am just happy that this issue, that's so often swept under the carpet, is being talked about.

"I don't care what side everybody is on as long as they get the message - it's just about being kind to people."

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