Giving voice to sexual violence survivors on campus

TRU residence also shows support for survivors coming forward with their stories

Brett Kavanaugh was recently sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by a very narrow Senate vote of 50-48. This came after sexual assault accusations by Christine Blasey Ford. (Ninian Reid/Flickr)

Sexual assault stories have been a powerful force in the media for years now. Almost a month ago, feminists and survivors tweeted out a warning to those involved around the Jian Ghomeshi accusations. The warning? Stand tall and speak out, because it was leaked that an essay, Reflections from a Hashtag, was about to publish on the New York Books website detailing Ghomeshi’s life since his firing from the CBC in 2014.

Reflections from a Hashtag went live and with it not a mention from Ghomeshi about the survivors, only insinuating that his difficult past sparked the #MeToo movement as a seeming attempt to make it back into the spotlight.

Across the Canadian border, activists and survivors have once again raised their voices, protesting the addition of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States, which was approved after a close vote on Oct. 6, leaving protesters feeling exhausted and disappointed, but still ready to fight.

Protests, media threads and activists all over have continued to fight for change in the media, politics and even universities when topics of sexual violence come to light. In British Columbia, provincial legislation has passed requiring colleges and universities to create their own sexual assault policies, but requires consistent reform in partnership with survivors and educated persons on assault and harassment-related issues.

At TRU there are measures in place through the Wellness Centre and the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Manager to offer support and connections both on and off-campus for those that have survived any form of sexualized violence.

While similar and working in close proximity to the campus sexual violence measures, residences on campus also have measures in place to give survivors a chance to reach out to those that can help and provide further resources in such cases.

Residence RAs receive training in both Ontario and back on campus on how to help harassment survivors feel comfortable coming forward and direct them to the right resources on campus and in the Kamloops community.

“We went through TRU’s policy and how it applies. We went through preventing sexualized violence, consent and what that looks like. Then we went into the specifics of an RA if someone comes and reports to you, what does that look like as far as documenting it,” said Meaghan Hagerty, TRU’s Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Manager, on training RAs.

Hagerty added that she had confidence that survivors could come forward to their RAs on residence and know that their information would be safe and passed forward to the right people quickly and respectfully.

“We really wanted to make sure that this looked survivor-centred and respected confidentiality and privacy,” Hagerty said.

As far as providing the information on where to come forward, the residence will often host Consent Tea events similar to the ones held on campus, such as the next event happening on Nov. 7. Hagerty mentioned that many RAs often visit her office to pick up more information for their respective floors.

While sexual violence survivors take courageous risks to share their stories to fight for their rights and to stand with those that may not want to speak, survivors shouldn’t have to hide in the shadows while resources close to home are offered in a safe and protective means.