Letter: Vote ‘yes’ to the SASC referendum

From March 11 to March 15, the AMS will hold a referendum that will propose to increase the Sexual Assault Services student fee from the current $3.63 to $9.30 and we hope that you will vote “yes” to enhance our ability to support the UBC community.

The Sexual Assault Services fee was initiated in 2002, when the SASC (Sexual Assault Support Centre) initially opened with the collaboration of a Speakeasy volunteer and an employee at Women Against Violence Against Women. The SASC fee has only increased once in 2005 from $1.00 to its current $3.63 today. Since then, the SASC has expanded our hours and our services immensely.

Our team has grown from two permanent staff members in 2002 to currently nine employees. In 2016, our hours expanded to seven days a week from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. to match the hours of the Urgent Care Centre at the UBC Hospital. In addition, we have developed many new initiatives such as Roots and Resilience – our weekly support group – as well as the Healthier Masculinities program, which began in 2015. The work that we do has always operated in a grassroots mindset – one that emphasizes bottom-up and community-driven support.

We were stunned and moved that over 2,000 people signed a petition to reinstate support services at the SASC this past summer, when the support services were shut down. In order for us to serve the community that has so vocally supported the SASC, we once again ask for your support by voting “yes” in the upcoming Sexual Assault Support Services fee referendum.

We ask that you vote "yes" to ensure that the SASC is financially stable for years to come and to ensure that the precarity of our labour is reduced. Most importantly, voting yes will provide survivors with stability, independent services, a wider range of resources and specialized support. As the number of drop-ins and outreach requests climb, we realize that the work that we are doing now is more relevant and necessary than ever before. Working alongside other groups on campus who do anti-violence work, we are often reminded of the incredible community that supports and values the work that we do.

We strive to collaborate with our campus partners in fostering equity and cultures of consent within the broader UBC community in addition to expanding our own services internally. Currently, we offer drop in appointments, weekly support groups, printed resource materials, legal and hospital accompaniments, and crisis short-term safety planning for survivors. For the broader UBC community, we provide educational workshops and outreach events on topics such as healthy boundaries, responding to disclosures of sexual assault, and bystander intervention, among many others.

We would like to expand our services in the future to support more groups on campus, with a focus on marginalized communities – namely BIPOC and QTPOC at UBC. In the broader social moment, there has been a spotlight on challenging rape culture and gender-based violence. We believe that this too has affected the numbers of survivors who have felt empowered to seek support as well as sparking the interest in many to learn more about sexual violence and become better allies.

Ensuring the financial stability of the SASC is also vital for ensuring that survivors have choices about the supports that they are able to access. Consent is ultimately all about choice. Having safe and accessible options is necessary to restore the autonomy of survivors. As we move forward from Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while keeping its theme of “creating cultures of consent” in mind, we must also acknowledge the importance of multiple reliable options for survivors as we strive towards creating our own culture of consent on campus.

In the coming weeks, you will see us around the UBC campus, providing information about the referendum. Come and say hi! We are happy to talk to you all about the campaign and answer any questions you may have. This is our call to you, fellow UBC students, to vote yes in the upcoming referendum. We know that we have the most incredible community of people who value our presence on campus and we are humbled and honoured to serve you.