By Marianne Theoret-Poupart
Special to the News
How do we approach the issue of sexual assault without scaring people away?
How do we talk about this social issue that affects so many women, old and young, and attempt to rid ourselves of it?
Do we need to be, as a society, more severe with aggressors?
Do we need to force girls and women back into long, ankle-length robes? Or, on the other hand, isn’t it more that we need to educate our youth—guys and girls—to respect themselves and each other, so that one day we will have a society that is safe for everyone?
Healthy sexuality. Consent between partners in sexual relationships. Knowledge of proper limits. Respect of oneself and others.
In this Sexual Assault Prevention Month, let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about what we love, and what we don’t. Let’s talk with youth. It’s better to talk about it openly than to pretend that sexuality doesn’t exist among young people, isn’t it?
In the Yukon in 2001, rates of sexual assault were three times higher than national rates according to A Cappella North study 2 by the Yukon government’s women’s directorate.
Delivering the message through art
“I always try to mix art with our social justice actions, to add something creative to the message,” said Jodi Proctor. “But it’s difficult to lead people to talk about ‘dark’ issues, even to believe they exist, when, right around them, no one seems to be affected.”
Proctor works for Les EssentiElles, has worked at Kaushee’s Place and is part of the BYTE (Bringing Youth Towards Equality) facilitation team, among other roles.
BYTE has a program that allows community groups to bring facilitators to do workshops on various themes.
“I believe that I play an active role in preventing sexual violence by giving workshops on leadership and contemporary dance in the communities. It’s a concrete action!
“We must teach our youth that they are powerful when they treat others with respect and kindness. We can’t underestimate the value of workshops, programs and other mechanisms that teach self-esteem to youth, who are at a really crucial age in their personal development.”
We have to talk about love and healthy relationships.
Quite simply, we need to talk about how to treat people in a manner that is respectful and beautiful.
We don’t often see healthy relationships in the media, particularly on MTV, a channel that youth watch a lot. Women there are treated like objects.
One hundred and fifteen cases of sexual assault were reported to the RCMP in 2002 in the Yukon. Among these cases, 19 per cent were victims between 12 and 17 years old.
Alcohol was implicated in 35 per cent of cases.
A film to prompt discussion
On May 8, Les EssentiElles, in partnership with the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, presented the documentary Sexy Inc.: Our Children Under Influence.
The film, produced in Montreal by the National Film Board, denounces the phenomenon of hypersexualization with expert testimony and the voices of youth.
Gisele Maisonneuve works at Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre in Whitehorse. She saw the film.
“Youth are bombarded with sexualized images of women. The inherent message is of women as sexual objects, that it’s ‘normal’ to be groped and fondled and to be addressed with degrading words. Dialog around consent, although central to the issue, is lost.”
Men have an important role to play against the hypersexualization of women and that, for social change to happen, we need to sensitize children at a young age, she continues. They must know, for example, that a sexist joke is not acceptable and that they have the responsibility to speak out.
Marianne Theoret-Poupart writes for L’Aurore Boreal. This article was translated and adapted by Julianna Scramstad.
Submitted by the
Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre.