‘Risks of gender-based violence are higher in university-aged populations’

Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office leads 16 Days of Advocacy Against Gender-Based Violence

Haley Adams designed a memorial in Beamish-Munro Hall.
Credit: 
Supplied by FEAS

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) launched a new social media campaign on Wednesday.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a call to action and a renewal of commitment to end GBV, encapsulating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec. 6.

“Because of this call to action idea, the purpose of the 16 days of activism is to talk about what kind of things our community can do to engage in prevention,” Taylor Mackenzie MacPherson, sexual violence prevention & response community outreach and student support worker in the Human Rights and Equity Office, told The Journal in an interview. “That’s in a variety of ways, from learning more and working out ways we can support organizations like the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston and Kingston Interval House.”

“[A] lot of organizations—and we’ll share some of those throughout our campaign—are also doing some vital petitions and [sharing] information about certain bills coming into play in the next couple of months, or other bills they’re advocating for. There’s also that push on government action.”

MacPherson said a lot of universities have participated in the campaign over the past couple of years, as well as organizations throughout Ontario and Canada.

Queen’s SVPRO has shared a calendar with daily topics about the conversations they’re planning to engage in over the next two weeks. MacPherson said they’re focusing on an intensive social media campaign because of the remote setting and how busy this time of year is for students.

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“The idea is that students can follow our Instagram and our Facebook, and they can engage with daily content that is quick to read, but is also engaging and makes them think a little bit about ways they can learn more and ways they can support and ways they can take action,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson said there will also be a couple of Instagram Live streams, with videos from some of the services at Queen’s, but the campaign’s primary focus is providing the community with bite size content that’s easy to follow along with.

The first day took an educational approach by defining GBV.

“The hope is students engage with the content and they’re able to take away a piece that continues past those 16 days. Something that’s important to our office is that, when we do these campaigns, they’re not the only thing that’s happening,” MacPherson said.

“We’ll be talking about other initiatives coming up next semester, and the hope is that this continuous conversation is happening on campus because we shouldn’t be engaging in activism for only 16 days.”

MacPherson said it’s important to educate university-aged people about GBV because universities and campuses are a
“microcosm of society.”

“GBV prevention education matters across age groups regardless; however, we do know that risks of GBV are higher in university-aged populations,” she said. “And I want to acknowledge [it’s] particularly higher for women. We also know when we talk about GBV we have to recognize the risks people experience are not equal and there are ways in which GBV intersects with oppression, specifically racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia, to name a few.”

“We, as a university campus culture, experience those risks pretty acutely.”

Going beyond intervention, MacPherson said GBV prevention includes building a positive consent culture and encouraging positive romantic, sexual, professional, personal, and platonic relationships.

“The reality is that this is our campus community and we all have an impact on what we want it to look like. Having these conversations about what we want that campus culture to look like really matters because we have the ability to change that.”

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The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is Dec. 6 to mark the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.

“There’s a tradition to wear white ribbons on Dec. 6, but we can’t hand out white ribbons this year,” MacPherson said.

Instead, the SVPRO is accepting photo submissions from the Queen’s community to represent a call to action and create visibility for the day.

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) will also have a memorial event on Dec. 3.

Presented by the student-led Engineering Society (EngSoc), the event will be a livestream featuring Principal Patrick Deane, Dean of the FEAS Kevin Deluzio, Chair for Women in Engineering Dr. Heidi Ploeg, and other students.

The FEAS will also unveil a memorial art installation in the atrium at Beamish-Munro Hall designed by
Haley Adams, ’Sci 21.

More information about the livestream will be made available by EngSoc next week.

The SVPRO will also be participating in an online memorial hosted by the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston this year. The office has submitted videos and pictures from other services on campus to the memorial, which they will share on the day alongside the white ribbons.

“The day is about remembering and mourning, but it’s also about calling to action and thinking critically about the ways in which we need to be continuing to have these conversations and actually taking tangible efforts,” MacPherson said.

“[And asking ourselves:] what does it look like to do that individually?”

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