Digital community started by UVic students provides resources related to sexualized violence

Lifestyle

Instagram page EmpowHer UVic launched by Social Justice Studies 200 students

This article discusses sexualized and gender-based violence and may be difficult for some readers.

Seven UVic students have created an Instagram page, @empowher.uvic, that provides resources related to sexualized violence and aims to create a digital space for collaborative learning between its curators and the community. In response to gaps in their education about these topics growing up, the group members hope to help people impacted by sexualized violence and expose followers to new ideas and lessons on allyship.

UVic students in the Social Justice Studies 200 course had been devising a topic for their final project. Seven of the students in this class found themselves entering a breakout room titled, “Sexualized Violence.” A commonality amongst them was that they all felt they weren’t aware of the realities of sexualized violence in the world during their upbringings.  

After brainstorming, this group decided to create an Instagram page. The group wants to create a digital space where students, survivors, and the general public can learn and feel safe to ask questions. The page is becoming a digital bulletin board of resources on sexualized violence, how to stop it, and how to cope with experiences related to it. 

For many survivors, it can be scary to process their experiences whilst feeling more closed off and isolated from others due to COVID-19. EmpowHer UVic may fill part of the gap left by so many resources being harder to access or needing to periodically close due to COVID-19.

“We used this project as an opportunity to reclaim what has been a source of personal trauma by speaking and educating to what we would have benefitted hearing at the time of our own assaults,” said Sidney Chapman, a member of the SJS 200 group and a third-year Indigenous studies and social justice studies student. 

Chapman pointed out how crucial it is to consider positionality and recognize that intersectionality is a crucial part of discussing topics such as sexualized violence. The seven admins of EmpowHer UVic are using the platform not just to educate their followers, but also themselves on different forms of oppression that are active within society today. They want to remind their audience that it’s important to remember how these oppressive forces impact people differently based on intersecting identities like gender, race, and sexual orientation. 

When asked about the sense of importance she feels in having these resources available today, Chapman reflected that social justice activism and social media have given marginalized groups and people an opportunity to challenge oppression. This is a way for people to hold themselves accountable to continuing to learn how to prevent sexualized violence. 

In just two weeks, the Instagram page has cultivated nearly 300 followers. Posts have included threads titled, “Addressing Indigenous Sexulaized Violence,” “Let’s Talk About Sexism,” and “7 Ways People Can Violate Someone’s Boundaries.” The group has received many messages from people requesting they create posts covering specific topics such as “victim blaming” and the differences between being sexual and sexualized. The feedback and interest shown in the page has inspired the group to continue the page past the end of the semester and beyond the requirements of their project. 

Ultimately, the group hopes to empower her, the younger version of themselves that didn’t have resources such as the one they’re creating now. Chapman says the pronoun used in the name is deliberate. 

“[The pronoun is] also a way to empower the feminine energy of the earth, which would in turn challenge patriarchal ideologies and beliefs, thus creating a more equitable society,” she said.

The group encourages anyone who needs an accessible resource related to sexualized violence during this time or an outlet to share their own experience to reach out to EmpowHer UVic. 
Other resources available in Victoria that aim to help survivors and encourage awareness around sexualized violence are AVP, Island Sexual Health, the UVic Gender Empowerment Centre, and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.