Sexualized Violence Awareness Week brings much-needed discussions to campus

Campus Local News

Workshops, info booths, and a drag show all coming to UVic this month

Image via UVic.ca

In the era of Me Too, it’s no longer a secret that sexualized violence affects a huge portion of the population. While celebrities have lost their careers amid allegations of sexualized violence, conversations around consent and sexual health are still relatively new to university campuses. 

This year at UVic, Sexualized Violence Awareness Week hopes to start those conversations through a series of workshops and events on campus. The Anti-Violence Project (AVP), UVSS, and two UVic offices — the Office of Student Life and Equity and Human Rights — are hosting workshops, giveaways, and a night of burlesque from September 17 to 19. 

As students head back to campus, the Sexualized Violence Awareness Week booths in the quad and CARSA will be hard to miss. These serve as a reminder that, even after the MeToo scandals, sexualized violence still happens at UVic — although it remains preventable. 

Five workshops are scheduled throughout the third week of classes. First, on Tuesday, Peers Victoria will host one about Sexualized Violence Prevention in the sex industry from 3 to 4 p.m., followed by a Tools for Change workshop from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.. The Anti-Violence Project is hosting a session titled Understanding Consent Culture from 3 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, and a Men’s Circle from 6 to 8 p.m. The last event is a Sexual Health and Education in Res workshop, which will take place Thursday in residence before the burlesque show in Vertigo, put on by the Shade Burlesque Collective. There will also be a table set up in the quad on Tuesday and Thursday, and in CARSA on Wednesday. 

A full schedule of events is available online. Everything is free, but registration is required for all of the workshops.

For those who can’t attend the workshops, AVP holds various classes and meetings on campus throughout the year to learn about consent and gender-based violence. The Men’s Circle is held bi-weekly, and they also host regular consent workshops.. AVP advertises the Men’s Circle as an opportunity for men and masculine-identified folks to “work on strategies for dismantling and challenging gender-based violence, dominant constructions of masculinity, and other structures of oppression on campus and in the larger community.” 

UVic’s Tools for Change workshop will also be held throughout the month on Sept. 12, Sept. 17, and Sept. 24. Understanding Consent Culture workshops are also held throughout the school year, with the first session happening from 3-5pm on Sept. 18. These workshops breakdown what qualifies as consent, and discuss how individuals can practice it in our day-to-day lives.

An online version of the Tools for Change workshop will be required for incoming new residents starting this September. Going forward, it may be incorporated into the university’s new pre-arrival program starting in January 2020.

These initiatives are part of a larger effort by UVic to address sexualized violence on campus. 

UVic’s Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy was implemented in May 2017, in accordance with provincial legislation that mandated all post-secondary institutions have sexualized violence policies in place. 

The Martlet obtained an executive report from the review of the policy‘s implementation in February 2019. At that time, the report expressed a need for additional resources and ongoing UVic staff training.

EQHR’s annual report from 2018 stated there were 28 formal disclosures of sexualized violence in the first year of the policy’s implementation, and concluded by recommending support for awareness-based initiatives, like Sexualized Violence Awareness Week.

Last September, in an article for the Martlet, survivors noted they “fell through the cracks” of UVic’s sexualized violence policy, and felt that it did not protect their confidentiality or offer adequate support. UVic has not responded, however, and an annual EQHR report on the sexualized violence policy is slated to be released this month — as provincial legislation mandates annual reviews be completed.

The Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) hoped to pioneer a project that highlighted survivor’s stories on campus, but failed to bring the project to fruition. Last month, VIPIRG ended their lease with the UVSS in the SUB, and cited problems with the past and current UVSS BoD and staff as reasons for holding up the project. 

In the meantime, events like Sexualized Violence Awareness Week are looking to prevent sexualized violence on campus before it happens. By having a presence on campus through informational booths and workshops, the week promises to bring taboo conversations about consent and sexual health to the forefront of students’ minds.