Sexualized Violence Awareness Week 2015

Consent and intervention: preventing sexual assaults on campus

Across the country and around the world, universities and colleges are increasingly focusing on the issue of sexualized violence on campuses. Here at UVic, this concern is being addressed head-on during the second annual Sexualized Violence Awareness Week (SVAW) taking place Sept. 14–18 on campus.

A result of the collaborative efforts of Student Affairs, the UVic Student Society and the Anti-Violence Project, the SVAW program provides the forum for a proactive approach to engage the campus community in a positive and empowering conversation. Rather than concentrating solely on reporting and support after a sexual assault has occurred, the SVAW focus is on preventing assaults from happening by changing attitudes and behaviours.

“UVic is committed to creating a community safe from issues of sexualized violence, and it’s a conversation that needs to involve our entire campus,” says Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of student affairs. Research demonstrates that most often sexualized violence occurs within a student’s first year of university and the majority of assaults occur within the first few weeks of classes. “Having the SVAW take place during the second week of classes highlights the importance of the issues and our commitment to providing a range of proactive, educational opportunities developed with a wide range of campus partners.”

Last year’s SVAW program highlighted the importance of consent, with training for student leaders and a popular Let’s Get Consensual video and pledge campaign where students declared their commitment to practicing clear consent before engaging in sexual activities.

“The Let’s Get Consensual campaign is about opening up a critical conversation with our student community” says Kenya Rogers, director of external relations for the UVic Student Society. “Last year we had over 500 students take the pledge. This year we’re hoping to engage even more students. The success of this initiative is leading to other universities adopting this campaign and working to shift their campus cultures.” 

The goals of the 2015 SVAW, taking place throughout the second week of new student orientation, include promoting positive messaging that encourages consensual conversations, creating awareness about issues of masculinity (such as patriarchy and entitlement) and how these issues can contribute to a societal rape culture. It also focuses on encouraging men to speak out and take an active role in addressing these issues with other men on campus.

“We want to engage the widest range of students possible to increase awareness and education about consent, sexualized violence and the supports available for those impacted by it,” says Kirsten McMenamie, judicial affairs and student life coordinator in Student Affairs. “The more awareness we provide, the more discussions we have—the more we can foster a cultural shift on campus towards one of support, safety and respect.”

During the week, we’ll see the launch of an expanded Let’s Get Consensual campaign, and a new training program for student leader groups that focuses on bystander intervention—what individuals can and should do when they see the potential for sexualized violence occurring.

“Offering bystander intervention training to students is an important initiative on our campus” says Carol Bilson, coordinator of the Anti-Violence Project. “Intervening at the scene of an assault is unlikely but changing attitudes and cultures will do more to help prevent incidents before they occur.”

Also taking place throughout the week is the Clothesline Project, an interactive opportunity for survivors of sexual assault to tell their stories by creating art on t-shirts that are displayed on a clothesline for others to see. The Clothesline Project started in Massachusetts in 1990 and has spread around the world, supporting victims of violence and bearing witness to their experiences.

The keynote event will include speakers Darnell Moore and Anna Soole. Moore is a writer and activist, based in New Jersey, whose work is informed by anti-racist, feminist, queer of colour and anti-colonial thought and advocacy.  Soole is a BC-based facilitator and coach specializing in empowerment, sexuality, social justice, healthy relationships and self-esteem. They’ll be speaking on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. in Vertigo at the Student Union Building. 

The Awareness Week’s kick-off event will take place Monday, Sept. 14 in front of the SUB with the unveiling of the SVAW banner and information fair. For more information, visit:


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Keywords: sexualized violence, student life

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