Saskatchewan. sexual violence awareness campaigns aim to challenge myths

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The YWCA uses coasters and stickers to get people talking about sexual violence in new ways.

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As Sexual Violence Awareness Week begins in Saskatchewan, a number of businesses are partnering with Regina YWCA for a marketing campaign that begins with small squares of cardboard.

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Rebellion Brewing Co. is one of 20 local businesses participating in the initiative in 2022, offering these squares – coasters with a “Never Blame the Victim” slogan and a QR code that leads to online resources – with every drink.

For owner Mark Heise, the decision to be part of the movement every year was an easy one, both personally and as a business.

“We run a tap room where customers come in and we serve alcohol, and there’s such a social responsibility attached to that,” Heise said. “For me, silently supporting and not harassing people is not enough, you have to actually get behind it and take action.”

The YWCA’s roller coaster campaign rolled into its sixth year on Friday, taking center stage alongside Sexual Assault Services Saskatchewan (SASS) outreach events for the next week.

Both campaigns have a clear goal: to get people talking about sexual violence in a way that changes their perception of what it looks like and what they can do about it.

Ashley Kilback, spokeswoman for SASS, said a good place to start is to deter the still common misconception that sexual violence only happens between strangers.

“Eighty-five percent of survivors who have experienced sexual violence, they have experienced it from someone they know,” Kilback said.

According to a 2019 Statistics Canada report, one in three women and one in six men in Canada have experienced some form of sexual violence.

“The reality is that we’re all interconnected,” Kilback said. “The more we can continue to have these conversations, the more people are aware and we can empower and educate them so they can take action and help prevent it (sexual violence).”

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Since the YWCA launched the first roller coaster campaign, Heise said he has witnessed more conversations between guests, his staff and the hospitality industry about harassment and assault.

“Over six years you start to see a little more traction,” said Heise, who has worked with several other initiatives in the province to champion the same message.

With the delivery of this year’s coasters, the YWCA provided training to staff on how to talk about and recognize sexual violence – a new element that YWCA Director of Operations Alexis Losie and Heise said. , contributes to the success of the ball.

“Just by having this conversation, you put everyone on the same page about how you’re handling this,” Heise said. “It was really powerful and really helpful.”

For SASS, the conversation is about understanding the scope of what sexual violence is and how it occurs in Saskatchewan. This year’s awareness week focuses on human trafficking, which Kilback said many describe as a problem in foreign countries that doesn’t reach as close at home.

This idea, she says, is completely false.

“It’s a really relevant conversation,” Kilback said. “Every day people are exploited and trafficked, sometimes by their intimate partners – and it is happening here in Saskatchewan.”

Saskatchewan currently has the highest rate of reported sexual violence in Canada, double the national average. Kilback said this ties into a discussion of many ongoing social factors, including vulnerable populations, remoteness from the community, and access to services and justice.

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“Our province’s unique landscape and our history is what makes the problem so serious here,” Kilback said. “Our indigenous population is in fact three times more vulnerable, especially women and girls, not only to sexual violence, but also to trafficking and exploitation.

“So this week really expands our reach beyond those who already support survivors every day, and serves as an invitation to those who don’t realize the prevalence here.”

The YWCA campaign aligns with SASS goals, but pushes a broader conversation, one that Losie says succeeds in sowing a seed of interest by using social venues like restaurants, pubs and cafes as a platform. -shape.

This year, in addition to the coasters, several partner merchants also have stickers to distribute to further extend the reach of the message.

“We hope this will open the door to conversations in places we might not otherwise be able to access,” Losie said.

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