I am pretty sure most of you grabbed that delish chocolate chip cookie from Commons in January, when UBCO’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) and the Women’s Resource Center organized Cookies and Consent. Well, more than the cookie, the message of “Consent” was something we all must remember.
No ≠ Yes
Maybe ≠ Yes
YES = YES
Student, staff and faculty, much like all other organizations, have faced many instances of sexual violence over the years. In January 2023, the Sexual Assault Prevention Month (SAAM) was organized here at UBCO to raise awareness about the resources available for victims and survivors of sexualized violence, and show solidarity with them. Recently, especially with the disruptions the pandemic brought to social networks, there were increased instances of intimate partner violence, isolation, and climate anxiety, as well as a rise in mental health issues.
While organized at different times around the world, UBCO organizes the Sexual Assault Awareness month in January every year. The theme this year was “Healing the planet through community”.
In accordance with the BC Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act that was established in 2017, SVPRO took over the role of addressing complaints from the Equity and Inclusion Office. SVPRO also set up the Sexual Assault Awareness Month as a yearly activity, which was previously organized by two student groups.
In conversation with Atmaza, a fourth-year Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) student and student-staff member at SVPRO, stated that,
“It was a collaborative effort between various community members on campus”.
The Student Experience Office, the Library, the Indigenous Programs & Services Office, and other units on campus all got together to organize a range of engaging programs and activities throughout the month.
This was the first year where SVPRO had a formalized volunteer program, where around 42 students underwent a one-day training, and joined the planning committee to plan and coordinate the various scheduled activities.
A group of volunteers: Atmaza, Dani Pearson, Valeria and Joanne, in collaboration with Kristen from the UBCO Library, organized “Rest as Resistance ''. This event was based on the book, “Rest as Resistance'' by Trisha Hershey, which explains that rest is a feminist concept. Getting rest in a capitalistic society is a form of resistance. Johannah recalled,
“It was an emotionally charged space.”
With self-reflective questions being asked, the participants engaged in topics like: How do we rest? What does rest look like? How do we create space for ourselves? By asking themselves these questions, they got an opportunity to introspect on their lifestyles. With diverse participants that included students from different levels of studies, professors, and staff, the conversations brought out the common theme of being burnt out and stressed.
Food is one of the most important cultural aspects which brings a community together. Much in line with the theme set for this year, another group of volunteers: Atmaza, Alicia, Addison, and Anna Stewart — the support specialist from SVPO, came together to share the importance of home-cooked food, and the ways it is used in healing across cultures. The team brought in their own multi-cultural and multi-racial backgrounds, and curated a cookout event with around 12 participants, preparing a four-course meal. Johannah said, “It was good to come back to PICNIC as a revamped collaborative space”. During this event, attendees played ice-breaker games, and had engaging conversations around their shared experiences around food. Examples of topics that came up were the ways their dietary needs are not being met on campus, food insecurity, a lack of time to cook, and the rising food prices that make it difficult to have access to nutritious food on a regular basis.
Many other events were organized for UBCO’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. A trip to the Sncewips Heritage Museum was organized by the Student Experience Office. How to respond to disclosures of sexual violence was organized by the School of Graduate Studies.The Yoga and Reiki Club held a yoga event. The UBCO community had the opportunity to write letters to survivors at the Sanchuk Theatre, Residence Advisor Meg organized Healing through Hobbies,and the Healthy Masculinity Group held a Man Enough Book Club, led by Rob Giardino.
If you ever find yourself in need of assistance, do remember that the SVPRO helpline operates 24/7. Break the silence. We are here and we hear. We believe you!