Sexual assault awareness: More than just a week

By in Opinions
Participants gathered to march for the end of sexual and domentic violece.

The stigma surrounding sexual assault is on the way to being erased because of initiatives by several student groups and organizations at the University of Saskatchewan campus.

With Sexual Assault Awareness Week coming to a close, members of several student groups — including the U of S Students’ Union and the Peer Health Mentors — have come forward to share their thoughts on the success of the events planned and promoted in partnership with the USSU Women’s Centre and other organizations.

SAAW events, which ran from Sept. 18 to 22, included a resource fair in Place Riel’s North Concourse, a TED talk in St. Thomas More College, Take Back the Mic poetry night, the Take Back the Night march and the You Can Dance if You Want To family-friendly dance. This year’s SAAW campaign slogan was “I pledge to be an active part of the solution.”

Crystal Lau, USSU vice-president student affairs, says that the USSU has been at the front lines representing students, working alongside the university to help normalize consent and provide safe places like the Women’s, Pride and Help centres.

This year’s SAAW campaign slogan was “I pledge to be an active part of the solution.”

“We want to ensure students have the right to work, live and study in an environment that is free from any form of sexual assault,” Lau said.

The USSU also aims to educate more people on the issue and encourages students to speak out against sexual assault.

Sabrina Materie, facilitator for the healthy relationships committee of PHM, comments on several of the events in which she was an active participant.

“The resource fair, as a passive display, can be hard to measure success in, but the banner we had out with signatures garnered a lot of attention. I think a more active event in North Concourse could generate more interaction with the campus community in the future — if we changed much for next year, I think that would be it,” Materie said.

Materie also says that Take Back the Mic, hosted at Louis’ Loft on Sept. 18, was well attended. Take Back the Mic is a poetry night for survivors of sexual assault that offers survivors an opportunity to share their experiences with others in an emotional and impactful way. The evening consisted of several feature poets performing their work, which led several others — inspired by the performers’ work — to share their work for the first time following the show.

The YWCA took the reigns for Take Back the Night — one of Saskatoon’s most notable SAAW events — which consists of an annual march to raise awareness for violence against women. This is an old initiative but has generated a successful turnout each year and continues to be a fundamental way to encourage community involvement in this awareness campaign.

In the days and months following this campaign, I think it is important for students to remember that reducing incidents of sexual assault requires a collective contribution from every citizen.

Sexual assault affects everyone, regardless of age, gender and sexual orientation. If we eliminate victim shaming and work towards normalizing conversations about consent, then we as a community, and ultimately as a society, can work towards a world where sexual assault is an issue of the past.

Ine Fourie

Photo: J.C. Balicanta Narag / Photo Editor