CASE VP Student Engagement Tonie Minhas speaks at event to support Taradale sexual assault survivor
After a horiffic sexual assault incident in her community of Taradale, our VP Student Engagement Tonie Minhas stepped up in her community to help organize the Glow in the Dark vigil. The event was covered by Global News. Watch the full video here.
“Unfortunately I can’t always feel safe walking home from the train station either…I encouraged all my family and my friends to be here too. There’s solidarity in numbers so hopefully we can make our survivor feel a little more supported," says Minhas.
One of our CASE members is currently working on contributing to the conversation around sexual trauma in our community. This is being done through women’s contributions of their stories on their experience with sexual trauma. These stories will be collaborated into a book, and once published all proceeds will go to a charity that supports healing sexual trauma in our community (this charity is yet to be decided). The book’s name is True, for what is true for women now is much different than what was true for women 5, 10 or 50 years ago. Though truth is fluid and ever changing, and while it is recognized that the conversation around sexual trauma in our community certainly exists, the creators of True wish to contribute to the conversation of healing, empowerment and freedom as opposed to victimhood and shame.
There are women we have known for years, and may even be close with who have a story they’ve never shared because the stigma around sexual trauma and silence is so pervasive. Through the authentic sharing of one, another person can feel freedom to share authentically as well.
True is still looking for stories from the community! If you, or someone you know wishes to contribute to the conversation around sexual trauma in a powerful way please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. True is also seeking a graphic designer inspired by the True story, and any other person who sees an opportunity for themselves in the editing process.
Details on writing:
We hope that wherever this book ends up, the woman (or man) reading it will find it healing and empowering as well as the person writing.
For more info contact email@example.com.
CASE officially launched our Zombie Sex Tips Halloween campaign last Monday, October 20, 2014. This concept is original and was created and designed by the CASE team. In addition to having three of these posters throughout Mac Hall, we have a display up Clubs House glass case until Halloween weekend. We will also have information booths in Mac Hall, ICT and Residence on the 30th and 31st. Additionally, we will have street teams handing out goody bags with candy, condoms and bookmarks with information about consent.
We want to start a conversation about why people find it so necessary to use alcohol when pursuing sexual relationships. We recognize that our society is not comfortable talking about sex in a healthy way in general, creating barriers between and among partners in discussing what they want and their boundaries. We want to empower people to talk about their sexual relationships without such a heavy focus on alcohol to facilitate the dialogue.
When people rely on alcohol to facilitate sexual encounters, there is an increased chance of committing sexual assault because, legally, someone cannot consent to sex when they are intoxicated. Additionally, alcohol is classified as a drug and is thus a prevalent date rape drug. In our media we see many narratives where people think it's acceptable to try to get someone drunk enough to "hook up." We want students to realize these narrative are incredibly unhealthy. When you use alcohol to impair someone's judgement and coerce them into sexual activity, it is sexual assault.
Our goal is to empower students to critically think about this issue, start conversations with each other about alcohol and sex, and promote healthy relationships and sexuality.
After CASE attended the Outrun the Stigma event put on by the Distress Centre on Campus Club and the Mental Health Awareness Club, one of our members was inspired to speak out about how eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health can support survivors of sexual assault.
We believe this is an important perspective that emphasizes the importance of eradication not only stigma surrounding mental health, but victim blaming language that invalidates the concerns and experiences of survivors. We also would like to thank the two previously mentioned clubs for putting on such an empowering event on campus.
The post begins below the photo gallery.
Trigger warning: sexual assault.
Mental Health & Sexual Assault: Eradicating the Stigma
submitted to CASE anonymously
The horrors of being sexually assaulted do not dissipate when foreign police officer shuts the file on your case and you fly back home across two continents. Since being assaulted thousands of miles away from home last year, the state of my mental health has been in complete disarray. In a society that pushes us to work harder, be more efficient, and sacrifice our own well-being in the name of “having it all,” self-care very often falls off the priority list. It was a shock to the system, being expected to return to campus as a full-time university student, under the pressure of performing well and balancing a fulfilling student life platter full of extra-curricular activities and a part-time job.
I thought it would be easy to go back to normal - do the readings, go to class, write the papers. I made it two days into the semester before the first time I erupted into tears on campus. You can’t put a “trigger warning” on history lectures recounting centuries of violence, or on walking down the street where a passerby might catcall you, or on a conversation with friends where sexist jokes are made and celebrated. Whatever that trigger may be, we live in a world that excuses perpetrators of sexual assault. My eyes have been opened to the nuanced normalization of sexual violence and I can’t look away. Recently, I have discovered “vicarious traumatization,” meaning that through my advocacy work in preventing sexual assault and hearing other survivors’ stories, my own symptoms of trauma have intensified. The triggers are everywhere - the strain of constantly hearing invalidating comments about my experience has added another layer of stress and frustration, making it difficult to even go to class or see friends.
Self-care and trying to take care of our mental health is falsely associated with “weakness” or “fragility”. There is a paralyzing stigma against reaching out for counselling or therapy. When I need to leave work early to go to counselling, I still find myself hiding the truth of where I am going and I avoid mentioning it out of the fear of awkward comments or unsupportive feedback. Even with my counsellor’s support, it is a constant battle for the reassuring and validating thoughts to prevail in a world that is telling you otherwise – telling you to get over it and “just smile.” I can’t just smile, not when I still struggle thinking about my own trauma, and the vicarious trauma that I have begun to identify with.
I don’t want to have to recount my traumatic experiences every time that I justify why sexist comments hurt so much. I want to live in a world where we are able to empathize with how badly survivors are struggling to heal, in a community where it is normal and encouraged to ask for help and go to counselling when we are hurting. Seeing hundreds of my peers and community members participate in Outrun the Stigma, cheering in support of breaking down the barriers around the mental health conversation, I feel we have started to take important steps forward to support many of us who continue to struggle. I only hope that the momentum carries forward and that we continue to grow this conversation.
We were thrilled to be featured on the cover of the Calgary Herald on October 1, 2014 for bringing bystander intervention training to the Den. You can read the full article, as well as watch a short video of CASE president Emily Leedham explaining the program, at the Herald link below.
Many other outlets covered the story and you can check them all out here:
U of C trains bar staff in sexual assault prevention, Sep 30, 2014 - Calgary Herald
Staff at U of C bar get sexual assault prevention training Sep 30, 2014 - Radio 660 News
University of Calgary bar staff training to prevent sexual assault, Oct 1, 2014 - Global News
CASE on the Homestretch, Oct 1, 2014 - CBC Radio
Den staff trained to identify dangerous bar behaviour, Oct 2, 2014 - the Gauntlet
We are very excited to finally share with you a project we've been working on all summer, collaborating with the Students' Union, Den management and Calgary Sexual Health Centre. Working with these groups, CASE helped to bring bystander intervention training to the U of C's campus bar, the Den. We are thankful to see the Den become a leader in sexual assault prevention and hope to see this program continue in years to come. Read the full article here.
“Bystander intervention training is about a collective response, looking out for each other, taking concerns seriously and being able to help resolve the situation and the conflict,” said Emily Leedham, president of the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club at the University of Calgary, which brought the workshop to the Den.
The CASE team attended Take Back the Night and was asked to comment on the event by the Gauntlet. Check out the article here. We would like to thank the organizers for working so hard to put on such an important and empowering event!
While discussing Bill C-36 in the House of Commons on September 23, 2014, the Honourable Michelle Rempel used the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club’s work as example of groups who are working to prevent sexual assault. Although it is flattering to see our name mentioned in the House of Commons, and we are thankful for Ms. Rempel’s support, we would like to clarify that we as a group do not support Bill C-36.
Whether or not one wants sex work to happen in Canada, one effect Bill C-36 would have is to further marginalize and criminalize an already marginalized, criminalized group: aboriginal women. According to 2010-2011 reports from Statistics Canada, 41% of federally sentenced women were Aboriginal (more than 10 times their representation in the population). As Aboriginal women are also over-represented in street-level sex work, they are likely to be further criminalized by Bill C-36. If one wishes to decrease the incidence of sex work, helping to fund other opportunities and social support services for the individuals most affected would be far more effective than criminalization.
We also believe it is be necessary to look at the root reasons why some people choose to go into sex work in the first place. For example, when looking at people who enter out of economic necessity, it would be better to try to fix such economic inequalities instead of punishing the sex workers involved - people who are already marginalized within society. Similar statements could be made about helping to support individuals with substance abuse problems, people facing domestic violence, and those who struggle with their mental health. For individuals who go into sex work because it is a profession they choose out of a number of alternatives, allow them their own bodily autonomy and do not criminalize their activities. Conflating all sex work with sexual assault is fallacious.
Finally, the lives and voices of people engaged in street-level sex work should be prioritized in any legislation on the issue. Sex workers come from many different backgrounds and have diverse voices that should all be heard. Criminal restrictions on advertisements for sexual services force solicitation to move underground, and puts sex workers in a vulnerable position and at a greater risk for sexual assault. For these reasons, we do not feel Bill C-36 aligns with our values.
Campus Security has added a new phrase to the footer of their security e-mail alerts, stating, "A victim of crime is not responsible for the actions of a perpetrator." We are thankful to Campus Security for listening to the concerns of student leaders and consulting CASE to find more effective ways to support victims of sexual harassment and assault in this area. If we want to change the way people think about sexual assault, we have to rethink the language we use to talk about it. We are also thankful to the Students' Union for facilitating this important conversation between students and Campus Security.
This story was covered by the Gauntlet and FFWD Weekly.
Campus Security changes e-mail alert language
by Alexander Kim for the Gauntlet
Discussion of sexual assault still needs work
by Chris Adams for the Gauntlet
Crime alerts: U of C changes the way it informs the public
by Suzy Thompson for FFWD Weekly
We are a bit late posting this, but we were extremely grateful to receive the 2014 SU Clubs Advocacy Award, as well as an Honourable Mention for Best New Club last semester. It was so encouraging to see all of our hard work recognized after our first year getting our feet off the ground as a club. We feel so much love and support from the campus community and very positive moving forward for the 2014/15 year. Thanks to everyone who has supported us!