Trauma-informed Consent Education: Understanding the Grey Area of Consent Through the Experiences of Youth Trauma Survivors


  • Jessica Wright McGill University


sexual consent, gender-based violence prevention, consent education, trauma-informed, sexuality education, youth, higher education


Sexual consent education has emerged in recent years as the most popular method of preventing gender-based violence. Yet, the concept of consent used in much contemporary programming problematically oversimplifies sexual exploration and the power dynamics it is imbued with by asserting that consent is as simple as “Yes” or “No.” The messiness of sexual negotiation or the ‘grey areas’ of consent that youth may experience are left unaddressed. By examining the experiences of youth trauma survivors through a trauma-informed lens, the limits to binary consent education become clear. I draw on empirical data from nine open-ended interviews with Canadian youth trauma survivors to demonstrate how a trauma-informed lens may be implemented in consent education. I argue that educators should include understandings of consent which falls outside the Yes/No binary in order to adequately address youth survivors’ vulnerability to sexual (re)victimization. I examine how three of the psychosocial impacts of trauma, dissociation, hypersexuality, and struggles with acquiescence, refuse the binaristic model of consent and should be considered for trauma-informed consent education. While education alone cannot end rape culture, addressing the grey area of consent in consent education may help reduce preventable harm for survivors, as well as youth more broadly.


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Author Biography

Jessica Wright, McGill University

Jessica Wright (she/they) is an Assistant Professor at MacEwan University, located in Edmonton on Treaty 6 territory. She teaches Sociology and Gender Studies. Her primary area of research is gender-based violence, sexual health and consent education, and issues impacting 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. Their current work examines the power of queer and trans joy for disrupting the systems of inequity that lead to gender-based violence. As a community-engaged researcher, Jessica works with regional, provincial, and national organizations to advocate for gender justice and research ways to address gendered violence that are trauma-informed and community responsive.


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