On February 1, 2012 diverse actions took place in nearly every university and college community across Canada for the National Day of Action. As a member of the FemRev Collective I had an opportunity to speak at the University of Manitoba, voicing the issue of campus safety.
This is what I had to say.
Violence against women is a pervasive problem across Canada and university campuses.
Taken from our university’s website under security services:
- 51% of Canadian women have experienced, at least, one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
- 60% (approximately) of women who experience sexual assault are the targets of more than one such incident.
- 27% of women aged 18 to 24 have experienced violence in the past twelve months.
- 6% of violent incidents by men other than spouses involved a weapon or an object that was used as a weapon.
- Only 6% of sexual assaults are reported.
Over the past year I’ve seen a rise in victim blaming when it comes to violent crimes committed against women particularly sexual assault. Rape isn’t an accident and it isn’t isolated. It thrives in a community where aggression, disrespect and violence are ignored or tolerated.
When I say violence I’m referring to verbal abuse, assault, sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence.
In my research for this speech I found endless information on rape prevention all directed at women, “helpful” tips on how to not get raped. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a rape prevention tip for potential victims, because the only way to prevent being raped is to never be in the same space as a determined rapist. Something we have no control over. Vulnerability only exists if danger is present.
With that said, I am for personal responsibility to the community. Non-violence is up to every single one of us as individuals to commit to. Having an awareness of each other and working together for our collective safety. Some of you may be familiar with my work; The Men’s Banner Project. It is a visual, performance and interactive based artwork developed for men which asks them to make the promise not to use their hands in violence against women, not to ignore or tolerate the violence they witness. The banner is a tool to begin dialogue, show support and build a stronger community through art. I started at this campus almost five years ago and now I’ve brought the Men’s Banner across Canada. It is my belief that not all people are violent and men can be a positive force in stopping violent crime.
The only real prevention tip I can give is, Don’t Rape.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
If you see a classmate at a party, don’t rape her.
If your friend has had too much to drink, don’t let him rape anyone.
It is our right as students to attend classes, study and socialize in a safe environment.
It is our right to demand the university has adequate resources for preventative security measures.
Violence against anyone is unacceptable whether it is directed against children, women, men, seniors, people with disabilities, visible minorities or anyone else.