In conversation with the new Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston

Maryam Pandi talks possibility of tailor-made services for minority groups experiencing sexual assault

Pandi said she was very excited about coming to SACK.

The Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SACK) announced Jan. 25 it had appointed Maryam Pandi as the new Executive Director on its team. 

A first-generation Canadian migrating to Canada from Iran, Pandi has a graduate degree in psychology from McMaster University. 

Prior to joining SACK, Pandi worked at the Toronto Rebab Institute (TRI), where her work included advocating with local, provincial, and national partners to provide educational programs for underrepresented and marginalized youth. She also volunteered with the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture and YWCA Transitional Living.

Pandi said she was very “excited” about coming to SACK, adding she was looking to work for an agency that had a “feminist approach [that] offer[s] services to marginalized women.” 

Pandi also noted she liked the holistic approach SACK uses to empower survivors. 

“I was very excited through my volunteer work to be working with feminist agencies who support women and non-binary folks who have been marginalized through systemic oppression,” she said in an interview with The Journal. “It felt like the right place for me to be.”

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Pandi said SACK has been involved with Queen’s by sitting on the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (SVPR) Task Force for the last six years. 

In this role, SACK works with the University to write policy and implement policy changes. According to Pandi, SACK offers a community-based perspective to the University in preventing and responding to sexual violence.

“The [SVPR] board works with a lot of stakeholders and SACK Kingston has been the community representation,” she said. “We bring our community perspective from a trauma informed place to these meetings.”

SACK is also closely involved with its university affiliate, Queen’s Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (QSACK). Pandi said SACK intends to use its close ties to Queen’s through QSACK to advocate for a larger presence on campus.

By growing SACK’s presence on campus, Pandi said she hopes to increase the number of counsellors available to students. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pandi said there had been conversations about creating a peer support group for sexual assault survivors. 

“The hope is once we are allowed to go back to normal operations, we would be able to provide QSACK with resources, whether it would be providing training facilitators to be able to offer Queen’s students appropriate facilitation and peer support,” she said.

Pandi also noted a need to increase resources and services currently available through QSACK to students. While she acknowledged there is support available already, she said there will be a greater demand for resources once students return to campus.

“Most recently we have been talking to the AMS about the need for extra support on campus through counsellors to work with survivors,” she said. “The current resources are not enough, so we are working to see if we can find room and resources to actually have a counsellor that is designated to Queen’s campus so they can offer free services.”

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Pandi said SACK wants to have an office on campus that provides students with access to counsellors. 

She said she hopes to continue promoting advocacy and education on campus, and further offer services to address the inequities in resources for racialized, LGBTQIA2S+, and newcomer communities. 

“A lot of the times social services offered in the community are not specific to the needs of racialized, Indigenous, and newcomer populations,” she said. “My hope is to bring new practices and offer these services at a higher capacity to these populations in Kingston that are more affected by COVID-19, and the same goes for campus.”

“Not everyone has the same needs, and we know that when people identify a certain way, this can lead to less access to resources and services that are tailor made for you if you identify as belonging to brown, Black, Indigenous, and newcomer populations. The hope is that we can bring this perspective to the University to offer more meaningful and tailored services to marginalized populations in Kingston and at Queen’s.”

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