Campaign against the violence never ends

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By Julianna Scramstad

Special to the News

May is sexual assault prevention month.

Together with Les EssentiElles, Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre is charged with spending a month of this year attempting to end sexual assault.

Then next year, we’ll try again.

This year, we’re recycling an old campaign—tips on how you can personally prevent sexual violence.

Here they are:

* Initiate actions for a violence-free workplace

* Confront sexual bullying

* Protest sexually degrading images and messages in pop culture

* Talk with your partner about healthy sexuality

* Speak out when you hear a sexist joke

We need to hear this stuff.

We need self-defense classes, film nights connecting local violence to the war- and patriarchy-related violence that takes place around the world.

We need to pledge to end violence right here in our communities and we need to consider sexuality as it should be.

These things give us tools to cope right now, locate us among our global sisters, empower us to make change in our own lives and challenge us to connect with those around us.

Why, then, are we recycling an old campaign?

We already freed workplaces from violence, didn’t we?

And got rid of sexual bullying.

We protested the images and messages in pop culture a few years ago, and we’ve been talking about healthy sexuality.

If we ended sexual violence last year, and again the year before that … why are we campaigning this May?

It might have something to do with the omnibus budget Bill C-10 bill that passed a few months ago.

Attached to the urgently-passed budget bill, there was a little bit of legislation that said the human right to pay equity is negotiable, and should be left up to the whims of the market.

By passing this bill, our government has said, loud and clear, it does not believe that women workers—who still earn 72 cents to a male dollar—deserve equality.

Or perhaps we still have to do this campaign because our government allows an overwhelming number of women to continue to live in poverty.

One in five Canadian women, in fact—and the rate for aboriginal women is nearly double that number.

And after years of un- or underpaid labour, 45.6 per cent of single, divorced and widowed women can expect to live in poverty as seniors.

Maybe the continued need for the campaign has to do with the sex education we receive in public schools—those awkward few moments we get (if we’re lucky), where we’re shown a few contraceptive options, and then frightened away from sex with scary pregnancy films, teen-parenting simulations and graphic pictures of STIs.

Within a context of fear, rather than one of safety and pleasure, youth often don’t acquire the language they need to negotiate healthy, communicative and equal sexual relationships.

What if we stood together and said, this Sexual Assault Prevention Month, we were going to value women as fully equal human beings—deserving of pay equity, of a livable income throughout life, of education that communicates that their right to govern their own sexuality should be inviolable?

Because if we fail to address these deep structural issues, if we fail to vote responsibly, if we get passive and forget to demand all the change that is needed—well, I’ll see you at sexual assault prevention month again next year.

Submitted by the Victoria Faulkner

Women’s Centre. Julianna Scramstad

is its program co-ordinator.