VIU’s Let’s Get Consensual Campaign is paving the road for progress in combating sexual assault.
In September, VIUSU’s Women’s Representative Connie Graham announced she wanted to follow in the footsteps of the UVic campaign and build a stronger presence of informative actions on the reality of sexual assault on campus. Now, through the VIU Women’s Collective, Graham is planning several opportunities for VIU students and staff to educate themselves on strategies for combating this issue.
“In early December, VIUSU had representatives from UVic do a detailed presentation of the campaign at VIU, which was unanimously voted in by the Board,” Graham said. She then started creating buttons and info sheets to spread the word. Now, Graham is launching a film screening of The Hunting Ground, a documentary on rape culture to be shown on campus on January 27 at 7 p.m. in bldg. 355, rm. 203. She is also organizing various short videos on issues and statistics of sexual assaults on campuses to be made available on social media.
“Central points of the campaign focus on what consent looks like,” Graham said. “It can even be learning to say things like, ‘Hey, can I shake your hand?’ because some people don’t like being touched. It can be things we don’t often think about but still need consent for.”
There will be several workshops built around recognizing consent; once they are created and practiced by the Students’ Union Board of Directors, others that are interested in getting involved in the campaign will be able to take part. “Then, hopefully, we will be able to run them at Frosh in September,” Graham said.
Graham explained that UVic’s campaign has a strong partnership with the institution and anti-violence organizations, which VIU is hoping to develop as well. As a response to the recent controversial sexual assault accusations at UBC, where the university took more than a year and a half to act against a grad student despite growing complaints of harassment or sexual assault by at least six women on campus, VIU is taking initiative.
“VIU is creating a sexual assault steering committee, which I’ll be on, as well as people from residence, and counselling,” Graham said. “VIU doesn’t currently have any policies that focus on how to deal with sexual assaults, so we will develop those policies.”
In addition to VIU’s growing support of the campaign, the Canadian Federation of Students-BC (CFS-BC) has endorsed it as well, putting forth a motion for all of its members to adopt the campaign.
Complementing the campaign, Graham has also organized a positive body image event for students, where women can participate in photo sessions and receive free prints and a CD with their photos. The women will be photographed by a VIU student, who is also a professional photographer, on January 28 and 29 in bldg. 355.
The Women’s Collective will have their first meeting of the semester on January 12, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the student lounge of bldg. 355. The following one will be on January 28, at the same time and place. Sign up sheets for the photo sessions and more information on the film screenings will be available there, as well as in the Students’ Union office. You can also email Graham and request to join the Facebook page, VIUSU Women’s Collective, to stay up to date