Whitehorse’s Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre is recognizing May as Sexualized Assault Prevention Month, something that program coordinator Jess Stone says she hopes will encourage conversations and raise awareness about the subject.
“We’re just really focusing this year on that dialogue,” Stone said. “It’s everyone’s issue, everyone in the community can play a role, and this is how we move from complicit bystanders to actively engaging people in conversations.”
The month officially kicked off May 3 with a free community barbecue at LePage Park. Other events are also planned throughout the month, Stone said, including three radio panels, to be aired on CBC’s Airplay, that will cover a variety of topics including harmful dating expectations, the #MeToo movement, how men can hold themselves accountable and the culture of festivals in the Yukon.
Stone said that recent high-profile sexual assault trials and accusations have increased the public’s awareness about sexual violence, but added that it’s also important to recognize that “women-identified folks have been recognizing resistance to this type of violence for a long time.”
“It’s really great to see the rest of society sort of coming forward and joining the conversations. Things are more prominent, people are calling each other out publicly, there’s more willingness to believe survivors and things like that and those things are all great social changes. But also, we need to recognize the folks that have been doing this type of work for decades, right?”
Even with the new wave of public awareness, though, Stone said that myths still persist about sexual assault.
“One of the most common ones is when people hear, ‘sexualized assault,’ they automatically think, ‘that’s just rape,’” Stone said. “There’s a whole umbrella of harmful behaviours and language and things that go under sexualized assault, and we need to accept that all of them can be … traumatic events for everyone.”
Another common misconception is that preventing sexual violence is “just a women’s issue,” Stone added.
“I think everyone experiences violence,” she said. “It can happen to anyone…. This isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue.”
Stone said she’s hopeful that Sexualized Assault Prevention Month will encourage people to join conversations about it “no matter what their background or level of education is or where their beliefs lie.”
“I think when folks are coming to the table with ideas, a lot of the times they might be humiliated away from these conversations by making a mistake in their language even though they have great intentions,” she said.
“They might feel like more educated folks on the topic are kind of driving them out of these conversations, and I think that’s why we really need to work on that it’s everyone’s issue, and if people have the intentions to make change and create conversation, it’s about educating and being compassionate, not about calling folks out and making them feel shamed.”
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