Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blogging the Second Annual Task Force on Gender-Based Violence

(Above: Photo of Task Force on Gender-Based Violence moderator and panelists sitting below a banner that reads "Stop Violence". From L to R: Austin Miller, Yami Msosa, Kimalee Phillip, Nicole Matte, Julie Lalonde, Kandace Price. Photo courtesy of Amelia Edwards.)

The Coalition would like to thank everyone who came out to the second annual Task Force on Gender-Based Violence earlier today. It was a very powerful afternoon.

We liveblogged a portion of the event on our Twitter page (@CoalitionForCU) but we wanted to give you a rundown of the event here on our blog (including the parts that didn't make it to Twitter!). We will also be compiling a report based on the comments made during the Task Force. This report will be submitted to the University's upper administration as well as the media.

Additionally, we would like to thank all of the panelists who contributed their time and efforts to the Task Force. Our panelists were:
  • Julie Lalonde--Co-Founder and Collective Member, Coalition
  • Kandace Price--Programming Coordinator, Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) Womyn's Centre; Collective Member, Coalition
  • Kimalee Phillip--President, Carleton University Graduate Students' Association (GSA); Collective Member, Coalition
  • Nicole Matte--Coordinator, Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) Women's Resource Centre
  • Yami Msosa--Public Education Coordinator and Collective Member, Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) of Ottawa
We were also grateful to have Austin Miller, VP External of the GSA, as our moderator.

11:45 am -- Students are taking their seats and Kimalee Phillip welcomes everyone to the second annual Task Force on Gender-Based Violence.

Julie Lalonde: UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines gender-based violence as "any act...that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women."

Lalonde: At last year's Task Force, students told the Coalition that their activism was appreciated, but that they couldn't wait for administration to listen. Responding to their comments, the Coalition began a grassroots, community-funded and volunteer-run support line in March 2010.

Kandace Price: Documenting sexual violence can be difficult because of "shame and blame perpetrated by our communities." Through sharing our experiences, we can be a united force to eradicate sexual violence.

Nicole Matte: Speaks of the importance of consciousness raising and of providing a safer space where people can discuss their experiences of sexual violence. Points out that sexual violence is a systemic issue and that it is important to "call out" the institutions which perpetuate it -- for example, university administration, police, the state.

Phillip: Coalition members and student activists working against sexual violence are doing what they have been taught in the classroom to do. If students are doing what they have been taught to do and are being punished for this, what is the point of the university?

Phillip: Sexual violence is a serious crime which silences and oppresses many people. It does not need to affect you directly for you to be angry about it. Quotes Desmond Tutu: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Yami Msosa: SASC and the Coalition do not work from the medical model. They do not diagnose women. Within the medical model, women will have labels placed on them and will be given medication to treat symptoms. SASC does not view survivors of sexual violence as people who have an illness that needs treatment.

Msosa: SASC began as a phone line in a basement, similar to how the Coalition's support line is currently run. Now, SASC has 30 collective members and six staff and is well-respected in the community. SASC and Coalition are allies in the "feminist anti-violence movement," working together to end systemic violence. SASC fully supports the Coalition and wants Carleton administration to recognize that the issue of sexual violence needs to be addressed.

[Austin Miller opens floor to students who wish to speak]

Student at microphone: Recognizes intersections which affect sexual violence. Is involved in aboriginal services on campus and criticizes the federal government's decision to cut funding for Sisters in Spirit. Urges audience members to attend the Sisters in Spirit vigil on 14 Feb. on Parliament Hill.

Student at microphone: Asks panel what men can do in their daily lives to end violence against women.

Lalonde: There are male allies in the community, including a group at Carleton--Men for Equality and Non-Violence. But it is important to turn the statistics on their head; if one in four women are being assaulted, someone is doing the assaulting, and it is mostly heterosexual, cisgendered men. We must acknowledge that people who sexually assault are among us. We need to be proactive, and we should be talking about the idea of enthusiastic consent. Stop making this a women's issue.

Price: Carleton has said that they don't want to be seen as "Rape U." What we try to explain to administration is that there are other schools which have sexual assault centres, and it would be great if Carleton admin could take the lead on creating a centre on our own campus. Silence does not make these issues go away.

Matte: Going back to the student's comment about the Sisters in Spirit vigil; stresses importance of considering intersections which affect the ways in which sexual violence is experienced

Phillip: Men can be allies by asking women what we need. Men can help by calling people out when they say things which are problematic. We must identify the obstacles that stop men from calling other men (and women) out on problematic things that they say.

Student at microphone: Discloses that she was sexually assaulted when she was 19, and that both her sister and mother have also been sexually assaulted. States that Carleton is turning itself into "Rape U" if it fails to address the issue of sexual assault.

Matte: If you are ignoring sexual violence, you are contributing to it.

Student at microphone: Asks panel members to address specific issues that they have encountered with university administration.

Lalonde: A referendum was held in which the majority of students voted in favour of a student-run, university-funded sexual assault centre. At that time, out current president (Roseann O'Reilly Runte) was not yet at the university, and the interim president told the Coalition to bring the issue up with Runte when she arrived. Runte claimed that a centre would bring bad press.

Lalonde: Sexual violence happens at all schools, but some choose to deal with it in a proactive way. Carleton is creating the bad press for themselves. The Coalition is using their own volunteer time to give answers to Carleton -- they don't even need to come up with their own ideas. It also doesn't have to do with a lack of space -- it has to do with the administration digging in their heels and not wanting to lose in the media.

Student at microphone: Other students have disclosed their assaults to her and have told her that when they went to Equity Services they felt "like shit." She asks what the "average student" can do to help.

Phillip: Often our calls for a centre are answered as a few angry women wanting to cause problems for administration. It is important to let the admin know that it is actually the student body themselves that wants this. E-mail admin. Create your own initiatives. Attend Board of Governors meetings, CUSA and GSA council meetings. Put pressure on student leaders to get things done.

Student at microphone: At Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) meetings, she has heard students from across the country stating that "Carleton University is shameful" and that what administration is doing is "disgusting."

Student at microphone: Discloses sexual assault that occurred on Carleton's campus. Describes feeling silenced because of her own intersections. Visited Health and Counseling Services on campus, but her experiences were not validated. Spaces where support is offered are desperately needed on campus. People must realize that the services on campus are not adequate and that they only perpetuate stereotypes. "I'm not broken...We are surviving in a fucked up system."

Lalonde: When the high profile sexual assault happened on campus a few years back, Carleton said that it was that woman's fault because she was working late on campus. The library is open 24 hours during exams. Are women supposed to have a 4pm curfew because that is when it starts to get dark in the winter here?

Student at microphone: Instead of saying, "How can we find out who those bad guys are?" we need to see how people's actions in their everyday lives perpetuate rape culture.

Student at microphone: Calls out administration for perpetuating violence and rape culture. Criticizes the "systemic normalization of violence as sex and sex as violence." That is not what sex is supposed to be. Stresses importance of identifying rape culture, e.g. homophobic and racist jokes, militaristic language.

Matte: The "guys will be guys" mantra is a huge part of rape culture--constructing a culture where rape, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and other isms are normalized.

Miller: Stresses importance of challenging each other and the stereotypes surrounding masculinity.

Student at microphone: States that it is important to have discussions, rather than just telling someone to "shut up." People should talk about how isms play into problematic things that they say.

Lalonde: Male allies should use their privilege to speak out about sexual violence. People will listen to men who call out other men.

Alumnus at microphone: Didn't have a place to go as a survivor on Carleton's campus. Students deserve to have a place to go and people who will listen.

Two students at microphone: Reciting a list of "tips" to stop rape, e.g. "Use the buddy system! If you are unable to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public." (Further examples at http://bit.ly/4fMdwS)

Lalonde: Rape defense courses are one of the only resources on campus; these are reactive rather than proactive. Be critical: why are reactive responses the only messages we see here?

Phillip: Administration's policies and space regulations are becoming increasingly restrictive. Students need to have the ability to organize effectively.

Lalonde: Carleton has posted press releases about sexual assault resources on campus, but they refuse to include the Coalition's support line in these compilations. The University should be proud that their student body uses their volunteer time to run the support line.

Miller: Several new buildings being built on campus are creating lots of extra space, and the large number of space requests that are coming in must be prioritized. If students aren't able to study or even relax because they're triggered or in crisis, this shows that space for a sexual assault centre, specifically, should be prioritized.

Phillip: CUSA elections are taking place right now -- undergraduate students should vote, then hold their elected representatives accountable afterward!

Lalonde: Carleton Sexual Assault Support Line keeps calls confidential, with the exception of prank calls. This line receives more prank calls than others in Ottawa. Reiterates that this support line operates under the same framework as SASC as well as the Calacs francophone d'Ottawa.

Matte: It is important to acknowledge healthy sexuality in the anti-violence discussion.

Price: Rape culture has become so normalized on Carleton's campus. Its prevalence is startling and upsetting.

Student at microphone: In residence, there is not enough protection for students, there is not enough knowledge regarding violence, and there are no resources available. How do we engage students who aren't aware of rape culture (for example, during Frosh Week)?

Miller: Reiterates the importance of being proactive and raising awareness instead of being reactive.

Student at microphone: Points out that if one is not ready to be involved in activism that is potentially stressful, there are many other ways to get involved.

Phillip: It is important to be aware of your own boundaries and care for yourself first and foremost. Otherwise, you will not be able to give the support that others need.

Lalonde: It is also important to acknowledge that for some people, getting involved in organizations or taking part in events is a form of self-care. Continuing to attend class and getting good marks can be a form of self-care. People heal in very different ways.

Miller (closing remarks): You do not have to be a lobbyist to make a difference. Having conversations with people we know in our own lives is one of the most important things that we can do.

Lalonde: If someone discloses an experience of sexual assault to you, know your boundaries but be a friend to them and believe them. Be critical in your classroom and your life. Be critical of your professors, of administration, and of your peers.

Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre
Support Line: 613-620-1030

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