UBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month hopes to turn awareness into action

This January, for the tenth anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), UBC has planned a wide array of events with the goal of connecting awareness to action.

SAAM 2020 is a collaborative effort between UBC’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO), the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) and the UBC Independent Investigations Office. According to SASC Manager Annette Angell, the SAAM Planning Committee meets throughout the year to plan themes and support student groups and other UBC offices with their own events.

Some events this month include information boothing at Clubs Day, theatre performances and speaker sessions. The wide variety of events is meant to encourage active participation from the entire UBC community in order to cultivate awareness and build a culture of consent and accountability on campus.

“Awareness does two important things: first, it helps create an environment and community that supports and believes survivors. By acknowledging the very real experiences of survivors, we are inherently recognizing that people are (intentionally or not) causing harm,” said Alicia Oeser, the director of SVPRO in a written statement to The Ubyssey.

“That recognition is what brings us to the second effect of awareness: prevention. If we know we are human beings capable of causing harm and one of those harms is sexual violence, we can create a culture that is more accountable for harm caused and less hospitable to the types of behaviors that allow for harm to occur.”

Inclusivity is also important for the organizers as it helps with initiating large scale conversations about sexual assault prevention

“It's important to acknowledge not only how far we've come a UBC, but also how much further we have to go to make [the] campus a place where sexualized violence has no part of our community and to support survivors throughout their journeys,” said AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Julia Burnham.

“The beauty of SAAM is that it creates a comfortable space where everyone can [be involved], have their voices heard and find themselves supported within the community.”

Communicating awareness

This year’s SAAM is also accompanied by a communications campaign. SVPRO and SASC have teamed up to share key messages and event information with the communications team in each faculty.

Specifically, SASC has helped draw in a wide representation for students. The Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology (CTLT) also contributed by inscribing an article to help disseminate the information about SAAM on the front page of UBC’s website.

Events throughout the month are intended for but not limited to encouraging participants from survivors. The messages projected on the wall in front of the Musqueam Welcome Post come from both the planning committee and peers who are supporting survivors.

“The message ‘You are welcome here’ is intended to speak not only to survivors of sexual violence, but also to individuals that experience identity-based harm,” said Oeser.

“These harms and the people experiencing them often go unseen, unheard and left without a voice, and we want to say, ‘We believe you, too.’ We are committed to working toward the simultaneous dismantling of all types of harm and we want to be explicit that our support for survivors and our prevention programming will welcome and celebrate the unique and multiple identities you hold.”