Making an environment into a safe space for everyone is an important task for people to feel welcome and included. Whether that being at the store, at home, or even class, everyone should feel their personal space can be respected within their limit. But that opens the discussion for campus culture. Are our students and our community safe?
Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes due to shame, guilt or even the stigma of sexual victimization, according to Statistics Canada. Due to the overwhelming amount of people un-reported for these crimes, organizations such as Advocated for Student Culture of Consent (ASCC), have reached out to help people in need.
Started in 2015 by a group of students conducting research based off examining Ontario universities’ policies on sexual assault, the ASCC decided to form together to help with the stigma.
“We demanded change from the administration and soon after we were collaborating with the Gendered Violence Task Force to create WLU’s first-ever Gendered Violence Policy, which has now been implemented” said Karly Rath the co-founder of ASCC.
The organization is made up of volunteers and is a Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG) working group. They are funded from LSPIRG and other grants that they apply to, to fund their events and research on campus.
A study commissioned in 2011 and released in 2016 by the ASCC had a survey with over 500 students and interviewing staff. According to their study, “women between the ages 16 and 24 are four times more likely than any other age group to have this experience… it makes sense that our universities and our colleges have a key role to play in terms of addressing sexual violence” said Sara Casselman, the public relations and operations manager for the sexual assault centre reporting to CBC News.
The activists are made up of Laurier alumni and students who are passionate about creating a change at Laurier. They have been running a survivor comfort donation drive this January, collecting items for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment and Care Centre out of the Brantford General Hospital till January 30th, 2018.
“We decided to run it after Christmas, as many people receive gifts they don’t need and replace older items. We wanted to give people a tangible way to support survivors in their community, and donating clothing and toiletries is a way to help provide comfort and dignity after their experience of sexual or domestic violence” said Rath.
This is the first time the organization has decided to run the donation drive and have already gotten encouragement to continue this movement.
“The response from the community has been encouraging and we have about two car loads to be dropped off at the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care and Treatment Centre, run out of Brantford General Hospital. We are so grateful to everyone who donated–whether it was some comfy clothes, a box of tampons, or some tiny shampoos from your last vacation, you’ve made a difference” said Rath.
The ASCC regularly holds events for students to help further educate them on the importance of consent and holding institutions accountable. A lot of planning goes on to ensure that the events are well suited for everyone that wants to learn or has been in a situation.
“We are currently working on holding an art exhibit called (Un)Silenced, launching a sex positivity campaign, and running WLU’s official consent campaign: Consent is Golden…It is documented that it happens on our campuses and in the Brantford community. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, and it’s never their fault. So, while this donation drive may seem topical because of the media, survivors have always needed us and will always need us, so long as gendered violence continues to exist” said Rath.
Outside of campus there are centre’s in Brantford that help with the cause as well. The Sexual Assault Centre of Brant also spread their help to the community. Their goal to provide services to create a suitable environment for survivors to heal and create social change through education.
Individuals can come for free counselling and their funding comes mainly through the government and donations. They offer a crisis hotline number at 519-751-3471 for anyone that needs their services.
If you know anyone in need or you yourself could use someone to talk to on campus, Hayley Moody is a Sexual Violence Counsellor and Advocate for LB student. Anyone in need of support can contact her at email@example.com or reach out to ASCC at firstname.lastname@example.org.