Self identifying women now have a safe space on campus in Laurier Brantford’s Women’s Centre located in Lawyer’s Hall.
The Women’s Centre hosted their first event on March 9, a screening and panel discussion of The Hunting Ground. More than 60 people were in attendance. The centre was established in September after co-founders of the Women’s Safety Action Group (WSAG) filed a spaces request form at the beginning of summer of 2015.
Women are able to access the centre from Tuesday to Thursday from 12pm to 4pm at Lawyer’s Hall. The centre focuses on three main components: support, advocacy and education.
Cheneka Brown, Administration Coordinator of Laurier Brantford’s Women’s Centre said, “We learned about taking a believing stance so if someone comes into the centre to disclose, we don’t ask questions like ‘what did you do?’, we say, ‘okay, now where do you want to go from here?’”
After filing the space’s request, the group made edits to their request and waited for space to be available. In September, they were able to use Lawyer’s Hall. Before the doors could open, the women had to write their values, mission statement, goals and create a handbook.
“The Women’s Centre is for folks who want to diversity and equity work based on gender equity. It is a space for like-minded folk to spend time together and do advocacy work and a space that supports women with intersectional identities like anti-racism work and support trans women, mothers and gives access to Hayley” said Lauren Burrows, Education and Inclusion Coordinator of the Diversity and Equity Office.
The Centre has also hired Hayley Moody, a member of the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, as the Sexual Violence Counsellor and advocate for Laurier Brantford students. Moody is available to discuss sex, sexuality and consent as well accompany any woman to a hospital or police station if need be. She will also act as a resource to work on academic advocacy and one-on-one support.
The Centre is equipped with resources for women such as free pads and tampons, and literature and pamphlets for various women’s issues. Brown hopes to have a feminist library included in the future, 24-hour access to the space and to be able to give back to the community.
Brown attributes the positive reception of the space to Burrows and Advocates for Student Culture of Consent (ASCC).
“As we were gathering our information, ASCC was starting their journey to advocate for a sexual assault policy. It went hand-in-hand for what we wanted to do, and it was perfect timing for those initiatives to come together,” said Brown.
ASCC is working towards creating a sexual assault policy to ensure that all students, staff and faculty are safe on campus. ASCC was created by five student survivors after completing research regarding the lack of sexual assault policies in universities and colleges across Canada.
[Text Wrapping Break]Lynn Kane, Co-ordinator of the Gendered Violence Task Force (GVTF) works on policy and protocol. Her most recent role includes consultations where she speaks with departments on campus to get their input on the sexual assault policy.
“Part of the consultations, led by Adam [Lawrence], will be with faculty and staff unions to ensure that our policy lines up with existing policies. For example, consultations with Laurier International are important because there are [existing] policies applying to people on placements or doing exchanges, so we have that in the scope, but the implications of that might not all be thought through yet” said Kane.
A challenge of student activism has been the inevitable, that students who work hard to make change then graduate. In the transition, that work can be lost. By putting their work into a policy, it will be institutionalized.
“This has to be a forever thing, it has to be a lasting thing,” Kane said.
For anyone who has experienced gendered or sexual violence, they know that it is a complicated situation and determining the proper procedures through policy using vague language can be difficult for survivors to get the help they need.
“It’s something I’ve heard from many people in many different spaces, that experiencing gendered or sexual violence is terrible and that navigating systems is even more terrible and can be traumatizing,” said Kane.
As the journey stands today, a draft will be brought to the Board of Governors next Tuesday. Throughout April and early May, consultations will be held to understand and incorporate all viewpoints of the Laurier community. Kane explained that the goal is to bring it back to the Board of Governors in June as an update.