Making Brock a safer place

CODY STANFORD

Sexual violence is still disturbingly commonplace in our society and has such a negative stigma attached to it that many of those affected by sexual violence allow their cases to go unreported and their abusers unpunished. With this idea in mind, the Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre, also known as A Safer Brock, has created an initiative called Young Women’s Night, which provides a safe environment for adolescent girls to enjoy a night of fun and relaxation while bringing awareness to the often-misrepresented problem of sexual violence.

Founded in 2011 after several false starts, A Safer Brock is an organization dedicated to the overall eradication of sexual violence while providing a support system to aid those who have been affected by tsuch trauma. Many of the volunteers attached to A Safer Brock have had experience working in sexual assault crisis centres, and have the experience and capabilities to assist someone in a variety of different ways, such as accompanying them to a police station or hospital, providing counselling as well as being able to find shelter, food and clothing in an emergency situation.

The Young Women’s Night was created to offer women, specifically adolescents between ages 14 to 19, a safe environment where they can relax, build meaningful relationships and become part of a supportive community. The centre is not just for survivors of sexual violence, but also for anyone who wants to have the opportunity to spend a night among people who are fun, capable and dedicated to providing people with the safety and the support system they need. There will be food, games, movies and more to stay entertained while hanging out comfortably with friends. The first Young Women’s Night will be held on Friday, Sept. 26 at 5:00 p.m. at 31 Ontario Street in downtown St. Catharines and will continue to be a dependable, weekly event that provides crisis support and resources to aid victims of sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is anything that makes someone feel unsafe; it could be catcalls, peer pressure to act a certain way in a situation, verbal harassment and unwanted touching. Many of these things occur daily without anyone giving a second thought to them,” said Jami Coughler, Program Coordinator for the Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre. “The Young Women’s Night is important because high school and university are major transitional periods in the lives of young women and it is now when they begin to develop the foundations of adult relationships and try to identity who they are as people. In such a confusing time, we are here to arm them with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their bodies that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

Part of the misrepresentation of sexual violence has to do with the silencing of the victim. These victims can often feel as though they have no one to talk to about the problem, and that they should feel embarrassed or guilty for what has happened. A Safer Brock wants to step forward and speak out against the sexual abuse that occurs, offering a platform of safety and awareness for those to discuss their experiences without any stigma or judgment. This is why the organization has begun partnering with local community programs that deal with troubled adolescent demographics such as halfway houses and addiction centres – to provide the same level of safety and support to those individuals in need.

“Sexual Safety is a right that all people deserve and by bringing awareness to the problem we can hopefully end the notion that sexual violence should be kept a shameful secret,” said Ms. Coughler. “It is important to remember that you are never alone.”

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