UVic-wide campaign speaks out for consent

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COV_Concent2_William Workman_COV_Concent2_William Workman-01_140908_webFor the first time, Sexualized Violence Awareness Week will be included as part of UVic’s New Student Orientation. The Anti-Violence Project (AVP), the on-campus sexual assault centre, is co-operating with the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) and UVic to organize the events, which includes public workshops and an accompanying social media campaign.

AVP Co-ordinator Carol Bilson explained that “this campaign resulted from last year when there were several incidences that happened around campuses, particularly UBC and Saint Mary’s University—there were chants that were sexist, encouraging underaged assault and non-consenting actions. Then UVic had its own three incidents during the holidays.”

Bilson said that the UVic Judicial Affairs office approached AVP as first responders to the UVic incidents and later saw the need for co-operative action. AVP volunteer Piotr Burek states that the goal of Sexualized Violence Awareness Week “is to create a culture on campus [that practises] consent – and to engage students, especially men, in challenging rape culture and ending gender-based violence. The week is full of events aimed at creating awareness around ending gender-based violence and working toward healthy masculinities.”

The week’s events will consist in a variety of workshops hosted by AVP to discuss systems of oppression and consent. The UVSS will step up their “Let’s Get Consensual” campaign and will also run a pledge challenge, in which students can pledge to end gender-based violence. Burek says documentarian and activist Byron Hurt will be at UVic to speak about masculinity and gender-based violence. Local poet Jeremy Loveday will be performing spoken word and participating in discussions.

Bilson acknowledges that rape culture and its day to day manifestations lead to unhealthy actions, sexist jokes or gender expectations.

“Rape culture has gone unchecked for a long time and that has festered unhealthy versions of masculinity and hyper-masculinity.” Bilson recognizes the charge emphasizes the fault of men but readily acknowledges that all genders are complicit.

“Men and women have absorbed this knowledge [regarding rape culture and over-sexualization] . . . men and women have to acknowledge this—but statistically the assaults are still 95 per cent men as perpetrators.”

A pilot Men’s Circle was created in January following incidences of gender-based violence on campus. Burek said in an email statement that “the Men’s Circle involved discussions surrounding rape culture, the connections between gender-based violence and systems of oppression such as colonialism, sexism, or racism. As a restorative justice approach, the men’s circles helped these men challenge commonly held beliefs and assumptions created and enforced by our patriarchal society.”

According to Bilson, the initial pilot Men’s Circle was successful, encouraging some of the participants to become student leaders. Burek added that “the purpose of the circle is to engage men in these issues, because for so long the work has been taken up by women,” and that current practices support the victim while punishing the perpetrator, instead of shifting the culture which surrounds the problem.

“We can’t take on colonization; we can’t take on patriarchy as a whole,” says Bilson, “but we can take on lateral violence, the microaggression, those rape-jokes, the misogynist comments, the put-downs in reference to the feminine and cat-calls—these things we can take on. All of these things provide the conditions for assaults to happen.”

The real intervention, Bilson believes, will occur during discussions among communities. “We think it’s possible that people will intervene at the bystander level—the lateral, and the peer level.” Bilson recognizes that intervening at the scene of the assault is unlikely; instead, changing attitudes and cultures might prevent incidents before they occur. She is optimistic about the campaign and acknowledges it will be a first among Canadian universities. “I would love to see a culture of rape to change to that of a culture of consent.”

 

For more information, visit www.antiviolenceproject.org.

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5 Comments

Avatar Noah

I am amazed that we are so easily sold on something as ill thought out as this program. What, are we supposed to believe that group meets and buttons will deter the swine whose botched consciences permit themselves to do so from abusing, denigrating, or (God forbid) raping women? Are we seriously going to accept as plausible that the fear of public shame and prison won’t prevent these evils but that a pledge to some scrawny undergraduate with a clip board will? There is a problem in our society with honorless men (and women) disrespecting and abusing their fellow human beings, often with impunity, but it will not be solved by this foolishness.

Avatar Jeremy Tarone

Actually it can and has made a difference. At one time it was considered good sport to get your female date drunk and take advantage of her. Today that is known as rape. Look at old TV and you will see it wasn’t just accepted as something that was done, it was celebrated. Yes, some still do it, but it’s no longer considered a good sport by 50% of the population to get a female intoxicated until she has no ability to consent, or remain conscious and take advantage.

There is more awareness about date rape drugs and I hope more people are on the look out for predators.

There will always be people who will act poorly towards others, but some of these demonstrations or awareness raising activities has made a real difference. It’s not bad to want to make the world a better place.

Avatar Noah

Rape has NEVER been considered good sport or celebrated in this culture, and whatever gains for women’s safety earliest 1993, and which has done largely nothing but hand out buttons and attack goodhearted people who have dared to encourage women to take measures to defend themselves. This is another social justice clique, and is more concerned with furthering its cult of newspeak than it is with addressing any of the actual dangers women still face in today’s society.

Avatar Ivan Marko

beauty. i especially love the restorative circles and the discussion on intersections of oppressive worldviews. i really am just not so sure, though, that we can continue to say that sexual violence is committed mostly by men. perhaps men, just like women, and people of other genders, have also been keeping quiet about the injustices, even the “minor” ones they’ve been suffering from. just because they are usually physically stronger than women does not mean they are less capable of feeling emotions, of feeling violation, of feeling pressure. and ultimately i think all sexual desire, and lack of desire, is held equally among all people.

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