SADD assembly delivers powerful message about the importance of consent


Kelby Wittenberg

Student group SADD hosted guest speakers Malik Mitchell (pictured) and Tipheret Peña from the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education. “It’s all about creating a positive culture around consent,” Mitchell said.

After the first block of the day on Oct. 12, instead of going to their regular clubs, students file into the Huss Center for a mandatory school assembly. The assembly, hosted by the student group SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), is led by Malik Mitchell and Tipheret Peña from the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education, a U of M based organization to help those who have been victims of sexual assault. To wrap students’ heads around the simple topic of consent, Mitchell starts off with an analogy. “How many of you like to go to Valley Fair?” he asks the audience. A large majority of students and faculty raise their hands. “Okay, well I don’t,” he says, to much laughter, “but picture this. Say I’m with my friends and they want to go on a rollercoaster. They’re saying, ‘Hey c’mon let’s go on this ride.’ I have the option to say, ‘Sure that sounds fun!’ or ‘No, I don’t really want to’. Consent is like that. Whatever action you take should be a choice you make.” Through the half hour lecture, Mitchell and Peña discuss wide range of topics, everything from how alcohol affects consent to how consent functions in the LGBTQ+ community. “Consent is essential before engaging in any sexual activity, no matter what your gender,” said Peña.

Kelby Wittenberg
Tipheret Peña talks candidly about consent. “Consent is essential before engaging in any sexual activity, no matter what your gender.”

In order to inform the community on how to help individuals that have undergone sexual assault, Mitchell and Peña find themselves stressing several points. “Make sure you believe their story,” Mitchell says. “It’s the most important thing you can do. Don’t ask for specifics. I guarantee you they’ve already been asked enough about the details.” After their talk is finished and the applause dies down, upper school guidance councilor, Susanna Short, steps forward to say a few words before the student body is excused. “I really encourage all of you to think about what was said here today. This is a conversation that is far from over.” Before Mitchell leaves, he imparts one last message on the audience. “When we talk about consent, what we’re really talking about is communication, because at its core, consent is communication.”After the assembly, the dean of students, Max Delgado, set out a basket of blue ribbons available for members of the community to wear to show support of a continued conversation around sexual assault in the SPA population.