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Students React To Relationships And Consent Workshop
Lucy Guo '23 Associate Editor
November 2, 2021

On September 29th, Deerfield held its first student-centered workshop regarding healthy relationships and consent, an event which some community members felt lacked in effectiveness.

Credit: Lily Lin

The Student Life Office organized the workshop to take place in partnership with the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest non-profit anti-sexual assault organization.

For the event, RAINN representatives Zoomed with each grade in a different location. The workshops consisted of several activities such as a consent questionnaire, videos regarding the dangers of abrupt changes in emotions, and hypothetical scenarios used to show students how to identify red flags in a relationship. 

“The workshop was a great way to mind and warn students about the importance of consent and having healthy relationships, especially in a place like this, where we have a lot of freedom,” Emi Takegami ’25 said.

Yet during the presentation, one slide featured a harassing text chain that included a transphobic insult. According to RAINN, it was meant to exemplify the technological harassment and boundary violations that can occur through texting. 

“While most of the content within the presentation was good, positive messaging, the few sections that weren’t proved a massive distraction, undermining everything else that was said,” Will Sussbauer ’23, a member of the Gender and Consent committee and leader of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, wrote in an email.

Sussbauer acknowledged that RAINN was trying to use the phrase “trans people are liars” to illustrate a red flag in a relationship, but also said that “it came out of nowhere and was unnecessary, distracting from the larger point that they were trying to make.”

A representative from RAINN gave a statement responding to the feedback given by Deerfield students. It acknowledged that they could have used further context around the use of the image and clarified that the insult was “intended to validate the interrelatedness between homophobia, transphobia, and sexual misconduct.” 

“What we have learned from your feedback is that we did not provide an appropriate amount of context during the workshop for this example of harmful behavior, and that without that context, our intention and message may have been lost or its impact startling,” a RAINN representative said. 

During the workshops, counselors were also staffed in the Health Center to support anyone who felt uncomfortable with the presented material.

According to a few other students, while they felt it was important for the school to have these workshops and promote advocacy for healthy relationships, having it over Zoom made it easy for them to disengage.

“I would have loved to see discussions either within advisory groups or co-curriculars that asked follow-up questions more specific to Deerfield and how the students, faculty, and administration may work to create a better environment on campus,” Sussbauer said. 

The RAINN workshops mainly focused on the topic of romantic relationships, but Assistant Head for Student Life Amie Creagh also emphasized wanting to promote healthy boundaries in all relationships. 

“We’re not just talking about healthy romantic relationships. Any relationship benefits from a clear understanding of what feels right, what boundaries are, and what healthy relationships look like,” Ms. Creagh said. “It’s a part of our responsibility as an office to ensure that just alongside academics, we’re also trying to impart the skills of lifelong learning and happiness.”

Deerfield has held RAINN-administered faculty workshops since 2019, according to Assistant Head for Student Life Amie Creagh. 

Moving forward, Deerfield is planning to continue its partnership with RAINN and will remain in contact to discuss potential future workshops or training. The Deerfield Gender and Consent committee is also looking to take on the role of spreading awareness regarding healthy relationships and consent.