UVic gets consensual for awareness week

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It’s time for UVic to say yes to consent as the annual Sexual Violence Awareness Week (SVAW) gets set to kick off. Events are planned for students at various locations on campus from Sept. 14–18.

SVAW is a joint initiative between the UVSS, the Anti-Violence Project (AVP), and UVic Student Affairs that promotes positive messaging around consent on campus. Judicial Affairs and Student Life Coordinator Kirsten McMenamie says it arose out of a need for “a coordinated, institution-wide approach” to the “growing concerns regarding sexualized violence occurring at other Canadian universities.”

The timing of SVAW, according to AVP outreach coordinator trish pal, is essential, “because the highest rates of assault occur when students are new — within the first eight weeks.

“There’s a lot of party culture and hookup culture in the first few weeks of school,” pal said, which becomes an issue when students start university without having been taught about consent.

If students want to get involved, they can participate in the Let’s Get Consensual (LGC) campaign, which also works against the prevalence of rape culture on campuses. Students can take a “consent pledge” at the information fair on Sept. 14, and have their photo uploaded to Instagram to prove they have gone through and understand the six steps of consent.

pal also said that the LGC campaign accepts volunteers. Those who are interested must take a consent workshop, which allows them to table for LGC at events around campus, including SVAW.

SVAW begins with an information fair on Sept. 14 at 11:30 a.m. at Petch Fountain. On Sept. 15, students can attend “Meeting at the Intersections: Conversations on Preventing Sexualized Violence on Campus,” which will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Vertigo Lounge in the SUB. Speakers include: Zoë Duhaime, the Victoria Youth Poet Laureate and a spoken word artist studying at UVic; Darnell Moore, senior editor at MicNews and co-managing/editor at The Feminist Wire; and Anna Soole, a Métis social justice facilitator, public speaker, and sexual health educator.

Running for the entire week is the Clothesline Project, an international campaign during which survivors of sexualized violence share their stories through artwork displayed on t-shirts around campus. Students can decorate t-shirts on Sept. 14 at Petch Fountain, and Sept. 15 outside the SUB, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

pal says that SVAW is even more important this year in light of recent sexual harassment charges that were brought against a UVic staff member this August.

“It’s not just for students,” pal said of SVAW. “This is about staff and faculty and students, and it’s about living in rape culture, and asking how do we shift that into a culture of consent and caring?”

Ultimately, pal says AVP will continue to do its part in spreading awareness of issues surrounding sexualized violence. “We’re a sex-positive organization that doesn’t believe in disposability. We want to give people an opportunity to change and grow and be better, because we’ve all had that opportunity, and chances are we’ve all caused harm.

“We don’t hear about consent . . . which is really unfortunate, and the world would be a better place if we started learning about that at a much younger age.”

UVSS Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers echoed this sentiment, stating in an email to the Martlet that “talking about consent culture also means addressing the culture of violence in which we currently live in.

“The more educational resources we can offer on this dialogue the better equipped we are as a community to work together.”

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