Selene Vakharia (left), Sofia Fortin and Jess Stone are organizing events to promote Sexualized Assault Prevention month in May

by Reem Girgrah
The Sexualized Assault Prevention month kicks off May 3 with a free community barbecue at LePage Park from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

May is Sexualized Assault Prevention month in Canada. Across the country campaigns are organized in the effort to end sexualized violence in Canada.

Here at home, the Yukon continues to have a disproportionately high rate of sexualized assault compared to the rest of Canada. Indigenous women continue to experience higher rates of violent victimization than other marginalized groups in our community – such as the LGBTQ2SII – and incidents remain underreported,. The work to end sexualized violence and build a safer space for women to come forward continues.

Last year, the Yukon was rocked by higher profile sexualized assault cases that in turn spurred debate and conversation about how these assaults are handled in our legal system and interpersonally in our friend groups, families and workplace.

This year’s campaign in Whitehorse promises to not only encourage the conversations to continue, but also to shed light on areas and perceptions that may be problematic or require some reflection. After all, it is ultimately each of us as community members learning, reflecting, and shifting our behaviours that can create the change we need to end sexualized assault.

The campaign will kick off on Thursday, May 3 with a free community barbecue at LePage Park from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Everyone is welcome. There will be music and entertainment provided by local artists and most notably by the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre’s Women of Wisdom drummers.

From there the campaign will swing into full gear with three discussion panels airing on CBC North’s radio show Airplay, Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The first group of panelists on Tuesday, May 8, will explore the complexities of modern day dating. Discussing issues like expected gendered behaviour scripts, consent, and efforts of accountability and responsibility in relationships.

On Tuesday, May 15 a second group of panelists will explore addressing sexualized assault in our communities from the male perspective. They will be discussing the accountability that is needed and that fears that exist when striving for those changes and challenging one another.

On Tuesday, May 22 the third and final group of panelists will discuss the troubling gendered dynamics of the summer festival season in the Yukon – and just in time for the Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival in Haines, Alaska, which takes place May 25 and 26.

Woven into these panels will be perspectives on gender, partying, accountability and responsibility, consent and the realities of living in the North.

The campaign will wrap up with the popular annual event hosted by BYTE, called the Connex panel. (Scheduling details are not yet confirmed.) In the past this panel has explored current events such as the Jian Ghomeshi Trial.

At the forefront of this year’s campaign is Jess Stone, program coordinator at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, who has paired up with Selene Vakharia and Sofia Fortin from SMRT PopUps, a local marketing and events collective.

Organizations involved in event planning this year include the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Les EssentiElles, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, Yukon Status of Women Council, Blood Ties Four Directions, BYTE: Bringing Youth Towards Equality, Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society, Human Rights Commission, Shakat Journal and White Ribbon Yukon. For more information about upcoming events in Whitehorse please refer to the website www.endviolenceyukon.com, call 667-2963 to contact Jess Stone at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, or visit their Facebook page.

Reem Girgrah is the Court Watch Volunteer Coordinator at the Yukon Status of Women Council. Originally from Ottawa/unceded Algonquin territory, when she isn’t advocating for human rights you can find her stand
up paddling.

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