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January is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Okanagan College students and staff are hosting a number of activities and initiatives to continue to raise awareness, open dialogue, support survivors and help prevent sexual violence on campus and in the community.
One of the projects, an exhibit called What Were You Wearing, brings to OC a popular exhibit that has been recreated at post-secondary institutions across North America since it debuted in the U.S. seven years ago.
From Jan. 13-15 at the Vernon campus and again in Kelowna from Jan. 21-22, OC students and staff will be presenting the exhibit, which is modeled after an installation first organized by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert of the University of Arkansas in 2013.
The installation was born out of a research and advocacy lens, when Brockman and Wyand-Hiebert noted that the question, “what were you wearing?” was pervasive for most survivors of sexual violence. It depicts various items of clothing in a gallery style walk-through, inviting participants to consider an important and insidious question that continues years later, well into the post #metoo and #timesup era.
Wyandt-Hiebert and Brockman set out to create a project that would place the work of bearing witness to this question’s answer back on the shoulders of the community and humanize the survivor in the answer. The installation asks participants to understand that it was never about the clothing a survivor was wearing, and that the act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors.
“We hope this exhibit will generate discussion, bring students and staff together to think about and challenge their own ways of thinking where it pertains to consent culture, victim shaming and sexual violence,” explains Beth Triano, a Counsellor at the Vernon Campus and one of the exhibit organizers.
In addition to the exhibit, there will also be a number of educational events throughout the month to raise awareness and continue to foster a consent culture on campus.
“Building consent culture on campus and continuing to raise awareness is something we’re very focused on throughout the year, but particularly during this important month that sometimes flies under the radar for people,” explains Brianne Berchowitz, Executive Director of the OCSU.
“Okanagan College is committed to fostering supportive campuses which promote assistance, intervention and consent,” explains Jane Lister, Regional Dean for the North Okanagan and a member of the College’s Sexual Violence task force.
“As part of the College’s ongoing commitment to working with the Okanagan College Students’ Union (OCSU) and Vernon Students' Association - Okanagan College (VSAOC) to support consent culture on campus, there will be a number of activities throughout the month and into February and students should keep an eye on the website to learn more about what’s happening on their campus.”
To read the College’s sexual violence policy, learn more about the activities being coordinated by OC students and staff for SAAM, visit okanagan.bc.ca/sexualviolence.
On Jan. 5, to coincide with the start of the new semester at post-secondary institutions across the province, the Ministry of Advanced Education Skills and Training launched a renewed awareness campaign to help keep students safe from sexual violence. More information is available in the media release from the Ministry and on SafeCampusesBC.ca.