It’s a sentence no one wants to hear someone they love say: “I was raped.”
Fear shot into her heart when Temi Adeyemi’s friend told her she was raped on Friday night. She quickly took action and contacted the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office to raise awareness.
“I am a woman, and I am a part of a marginalized group in this country and felt so passionate about taking a stand and giving people a voice who may not have a voice, or may not be confident enough to,” Adeyemi said. “I can’t just sit by and do nothing.”
Adeyemi set up a booth in the courtyard Wednesday at the UBC Okanagan campus handing out buttons, t-shirts and talking to students about why it is important to raise their voices against sexual violence.
“When I was posting about the rally on social media people told me that I have their support and I was receiving lots of messages from survivors that typed out their stories… it was a beautiful thing to see.”
The stories gave Adeyemi the fire she needed to know she was doing the right thing. Adeyemi says that the university has come a long way over her four years as a student but that students that are victims of sexual assault still don’t know about the services on campus that they can access.
In December of last year, the SVRPO moved into the Nicola Townhome where Shilo St. Cyr, director of the office welcomes survivors through their door.
“I see survivors come in and there’s so much resilience and power, being there beside them, listening to them and supporting them… I love the work that I do,” said St. Cyr.
“We know sexual violence has been pervasive in our community and UBC knew (survivors) were accessing counselling, and the Elizabeth Fry Society and other resources to get their needs met but SVRPO was created to be a one-stop place where you can come and share your story once and be fully supported.”
The one-on-one support driven office has issued a campaign called “We believe you” to stress the importance of believing anyone that comes forward and says that they have been raped.
“The campaign is really about the fact that there are so many barriers, and we know this, there is so much research on this. Only 10 per cent of survivors report it to police and so we really wanted a place where survivors could come and that they will be believed if they access SVRPO.”
An important part of the initiative is the solidarity cards, where survivors can write notes to others as they access the services telling them that they are not alone and are supported.
In a report by Statistics Canada, the vast majority of sexual assault victims are women. Victims between the ages of 15-24 account for nearly half of all sexual assault incidents. The rate of sexual assault is considerably higher for young Canadians.
St. Cyr listed recommendations to practice prevention:
• Believe survivors, tell them that it is not their fault
• Listen to them
• If you hear things that normalize and trivialize rape, or that reinforce sexual violence on social media, at the coffee shop step in and saying something about why that isn’t okay
• Think about the music and messages we consume around sexual violence
Visit SVRPO’s website for more information or visit their office.
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