Believing survivors key message of this year’s Sexualized Violence Awareness Week

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As the dialogue around sexualized violence continues to evolve around the country, particularly on university campuses, the need to eliminate barriers and include as many people in the discussion is essential. And it’s with the elimination of those barriers in mind that the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) heads into its annual Sexualized Violence Awareness Week (SVAW), starting today at UVic and continuing until Sept. 20, with a final keynote presentation on Sept. 28.

This year’s SVAW will feature an information table, consent and support workshops, as well as a new bystander intervention training workshop made to equip students with the skills needed to “recognize and safely intervene in situations that contribute or lead to sexualized violence.”

A full schedule of events is available at AVP’s website.

While much of the format is similar to previous year’s events, AVP education coordinator meg neufeld says they’ve changed things up this time around, particularly with the Supporting Survivors Information Fair, which now takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

“We figured that students are going to be tabled out by that point,” neufeld said, “so it’s not really an info fair.”

Instead, neufeld says AVP will set up tables with different creative and interactive activities where students can come together and provide support to each other, as well as connect with community support services.

“On top of that, we’re going to have discussion tables with different questions,” neufeld said. “It’s really open-ended. Students can come and sit down, or faculty can come and sit down, or service providers can come and sit down. And the hope is that it’s a lot more organic for folks [to participate].”

neufeld said that previous events may have been too inaccessible for students, particularly survivors of sexualized violence. “When you have tables, you often out yourself by walking up to, say, [Victoria Sexual Assault Centre], and it’s harder for some folks to access support in that way.

“If it’s more casual and just people crafting, you can just say that you wanted to craft but you could chat with someone about where you can get support,” they said.

The theme of this year’s SVAW is believing survivors, which neufeld said is vital to helping those affected by sexualized violence. “Believing survivors is such an important part of the healing process,” they said, “and I think it’s often left behind in campaigns trying to prevent violence from happening.”

But things don’t stop at the end of this week, as nationally recognized counsellor and educator Farrah Khan will be making a keynote address at UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The renowned activist behind initiatives including #UsetheRightWords and #WeBelieveSurvivors will present “We Begin By Listening,” which neufeld is more than excited about.

“[Khan’s] a queer Muslim woman who’s been doing this work for years,” they said. “She’s amazing, and she’s done a lot of outreach and she does a lot of support at Ryerson University for survivors as well.”

Ultimately, neufeld hopes that the continued work AVP does, both within and without SVAW, will help those in the community and remove the barriers for those who need to speak up.

“We want people to know that they’re going to be believed,” neufeld said. “We want people to know that they can talk about it.”

For more information on the Anti-Violence Project, Sexualized Violence Awareness Week, and other initiatives and support, head to antiviolenceproject.org.

UPDATE Sept. 13: AVP has told the Martlet that the Supporting Survivors Information Fair will now take place on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

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