According to Bill 151, whose purpose is to combat sexual violence in higher education, each school needs a policy, which outlines how instances of sexual violence are to be handled at a given institution.
For example, Vanier’s Commitment to Survivors/Victims of Sexual Violence emphasizes the survivor’s importance, while prioritizing their needs for support, resources, accommodation, and/or justice.
As a member of the Standing College Committee on Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, Lindsay Cuncins played a part in creating a way to enable a widespread network within the Vanier Community that deals with providing support and resources to the student body, while raising awareness about the issue.
And so, ‘Cats Against Catcalling” was born.
It is a volunteer-based committee that is compromised of students who are united on the front for raising awareness for sexual assault and of promoting social change, which begins within our school’s culture.
Peer voices are the most important in this respect, as they are in a position of influence to each other, yet they also have the ability to support each other. Therefore, student-led initiatives, such as workshops and a drop-in center, are important goals for the committee.
As Lindsay said, it provides an opportunity for students to “step into their power” and to educate each other, thereby “creating role models as a way of changing the culture in which we live.”
In order to do this, it’s important to note that the victims of sexual violence do not fit into a certain archetype; it is an issue that concerns people of all genders, sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, abilities/disabilities, etc.
This concept of intersectionality is a core value, as it is crucial to fostering an environment of trust where all can feel represented.
To this effect, intersectionality also gives way to accessibility. If a person can talk about their experiences to someone who shares similar ones and who look like them, it decreases the barriers between survivors and their prospects at seeking help.
Hence, the purpose of “Cats Against Catcalling”, is to establish a community that turns the negative emotions surrounding the issue into fuel for activism as well as hope for the future, while promoting healing; sometimes you just need somebody to talk to and who will believe you.
As “Cats Against Catcalling” is still new, it is still open to input; it is important that students play a role in shaping what services, which are intended for them, look like.
The easiest way of doing so would be to indicate Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness as a priority in the Strategic Planning Survey. The committee also remains open to volunteers and is flexible to students’ interests and availabilities. After all, anyone can be a Cat.
*If ever you find yourself in need of support, it is important to know that there are resources at Vanier; you can contact Lindsay Cuncins, the sexual violence and response social officer, via MIO or see her in her office at student services.
Written by: Mel Spiridigliozzi