Tagged: British Columbia

Why is everyone talking about Consent? By Sharyn Carroll

From high profile cases in the media to Canadian students and faculty calling for change across college and university campuses, the term “Consent” is being put under a microscope. Our understanding of this word raises communication to a whole new level in a fast paced digital world where dialogue can be as quick as a text, tweet or even a sound bite.

Consent forces us to slow down and listen to all that is being communicated.  It encourages us to be aware of not only our own boundaries but also of the boundaries of others.  It helps us to understand what has been communicated and to find safe space in which to express our needs, wants and desires while respecting the rights of another individual.  If you’re really paying attention, consent can only deepen our connection to others; after all is this not the common link that ties the human experience together.


By Sharyn Carroll, Project Coordinator

“Less Guilt, More Joy!” – Valdi – By Kate Maurice


Pass It On Meeting

Pass It On Meeting

Working as a mentor supervisor I enjoy a position with the unique perspective of 28 young women ranging in age from 13-18 years old. I see many sides of these young women as we grow to know each other. Where often their insecurity is what drives their character, soon, with time and trust their true selves shine through. Putting words to their insecurities in a safe environment with belief and support for their emerging selves. Needless to say I care deeply about fostering true and positive growth into self and often find myself searching for the qualities which encourage confidence and those which take it away. The last two weekends were an amazingly clear example of the conflicting messages from our society and the hypocrisy in which our young women live.

I was empowered, engaged, and impressed by the women in my community at the celebrations for International Women’s Day that SWOVA and IWAV organized that took place on March 7th and 8th. A fundraiser for Pass it On, Sparkfest showcased amazing female talent and began the weekend events, followed by inspiring changemaker workshops held during the following day, concluding with an award dinner for community-nominated female changemakers from the Southern Gulf Islands. So many people came to support and celebrate women and their achievements. The young women who participated were engaged and positive. Emulating confidence and hope, surrounded by role models of achievement, insight, openness and the diverse reality of what it is to be a woman.


Spark Fest 2014

On this positive note I went to visit my sister in Vancouver. It was lovely to be with her and reconnect. Unfortunately or interestingly, I ended up watching some television with her which is incredibly uncommon in my life on Salt Spring. Although I have watched a lot of T.V. in my past (I last regularly watched 10 odd years ago) I was unprepared for the bombardment of commercials. They ran after only 5-7 minutes of programming and contained at least 60% of ads for hair and make up, 15% for cleaning products, 20% food ads and 5% random sales. The hair, makeup and cleaning ads all contained women. The hair and makeup were a barrage of pulsing images of women’s manicured and enhanced eyes, lips, skin, slight frames and glossy hair. The cleaning ads were of thin attractive “moms” who were stressed about dirt and satiated with sparkles. When I commented, my sister said she didn’t pay any attention to the ads. I agreed that logically and literally she probably knew they were nonsense and ignored them. I wonder though, how completely can we ignore something we are staring right at? How critical can our minds be of what we are subconsciously absorbing? Are we better off when we are young and impressionable? Or are we better at discerning as adults? Do we ever lose our impressionability? And does time wear down our judgments or strengthen them?

I believe humans are easily influenced, especially as teens. We learn from our families and peers and from those things we see and do the most. We are creatures of habit easily falling into patterns or judgments based on what we see and experience. It can be incredibly hard to go against what we are told we are and how we should look and act. Television is only one piece of the social media that all of us are up against. The Internet, billboards, radio, music and movies all actively promote these stereotypes of women young and old. How do we protect one another from these obsessive and constant messages we are all absorbing about how we should look and feel. How do the effects of a weekend with approximately 200 hundred people combat hour by hour pulses of messages that none of us are enough and none of us are the norm?

By Kate Maurice, Coordinator of SWOVA’s Pass It On program



Weekend of Entertainment, Workshops, Recognition and Celebration

International Women’s Day March 8, 2014


For over one hundred years, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been a day of celebration and recognition to mark exceptional achievements of women and to build on inequities still to be addressed.  This year SWOVA, IWAV, Victim Services – with the generous support of the Harbour House Hotel – have teamed up to present a weekend of exciting events for all members of our community in honour of the exceptional contributions women make to life in the Southern Gulf Islands.

Weekend activities kick off Friday evening with the annual Sparkfest Evening of Entertainment.  Saturday will include a full day of Inspiring and Energizing Workshops and skill training sessions.  Saturday evening will culminate with a fabulous dinner and recognition ceremony hosted by Elizabeth May.

Members of the public have nominated over twenty women from the Southern Gulf Islands for their ‘change making’ contributions to our communities.  We will honour these women’s achievements from all aspects of community life including; environmental, political, social, science, the arts, education and economic.  Elizabeth May will present awards for these “Community Change Makers” at “An Evening of Celebration & Inspiration” at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm on 8th March.

Friday 7th March, 7:30pm –   SparkFest   ($20 or $25 at the door)
Saturday 8th March, 9am -5pm  –  Workshops  ($10 for the whole day, $5 for youth)
Saturday 8th March, 5:00 pm –  Social & Cash Bar
6:30 pm    –    Dinner    ($35 or $250 for a table of 8, youth, $30.00)

Tickets are available from:  SWOVA, 344 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island. BC, V8K 2V3

For more information please contact SWOVA    e-mail: info@swova.org   Phone: 250-537-1336


All events will take place at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm,

HHLogoBanner2_Print 2
121 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island,
who have made the event possible through their generosity.

SWOVA New LOGO withTAG black

Rape Culture Reflected in Canadian Universities – By Kevin Vowles

The feeling of returning to SWOVA for yet a third year of R+R delivery is a great one.  I’m honoured to be a part of the violence prevention movement, and grateful to the women whose efforts have ensured that I can do this work.  As we enter into another school year it is apparent that working with youth to talk about gender based violence is needed just as much now as it is has ever been.  Over the summer I’ve been struggling to digest media critiques about “rape culture.”  This is a tough one because sometimes people do not want to admit that we live in a rape culture.  As one student noted in one of our first R+R sessions, cultures of violence are not just here or there affecting some people, they are everywhere and affect us all.   I spoke about rape culture in a previous blog (http://www.peaceadvocacy.org/#!writing/cnec) about the Canadian television show Arctic Air, and now I’m going to write about it again, because of the twenty-year old frosh chants glorifying the rape of young women at the University of British Columbia, and Saint Mary’s University. I feel deeply disturbed that young Canadian University students arrive at university ready to expound rape culture.  YOUNG is the chant that could be heard on frosh buses and was filmed in other more open venues at the start of this school year on two campuses.

Y is for your sister

O is for oh so tight

U is for underage

N is for no consent

G is for Go to Jail

I feel nauseated that young men could arrive at university with objectionable views that objectify.  I feel deeply concerned for the more than one in three women whose lives will be turned upside down by experiencing sexualized violence—rape.  I feel charged to keep doing what we do.  I feel certain that young men and women can stand up and not be by-standers to rape culture.

As the Globe and Mail noted five days ago in an article on rape culture, the proportions are endemic:

“According to statistics commonly cited by campus sexual-assault centres, no fewer than one in five women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape by graduation. At UBC, which has about 27,000 female students, that would amount to 5,400 women – well over 1,000 per year, if distributed over four years of schooling.”

UBC says it will address the issue with education.  I applaud the response from the University that the behaviour will not be tolerated.  I’m pleased that they will address individual behaviour with action, but will they address the larger rape culture that caused this to happen (for the last twenty years apparently?).  To address the culture at play is to hit the bulls eye.  This is not the fault of young men.  Of course young men must be held accountable, but we have to recognize that this is a socially learned behaviour just like other forms of violence.  Our culture is propagating rape culture, and young men are soaking it up.  The explosion of open source free online pornography is affecting young men as early as elementary school.  Young women are objectified, and assaulted.  But the rape culture goes deeper and is in the mainstream of the Canadian television industry, as well as the American media system.  To somehow move away from this violence, which eats at the very fabric—the emotional health and well-being of both men and women—we must talk.  We must talk about how we feel and how we can change the rape culture, because it’s getting worse instead of better.  Let’s talk.

For more on the university situation this fall here in Canada, check out:



By Kevin Vowles, Respectful Relationships (R+R) Facilitator

Incredible Youth Led Conversations About the Violence Behind Amanda Todd’s Death – By Blake Peters, Cole Smith and Kevin Vowles

Whether violence happens in our community, our province, or in another part of the world it affects us.    Sometimes it is particularly difficult for young men to acknowledge violence; to recognize that there is a very real and serious problem. Recently though, male students at Gulf Island Secondary School (GISS) did just that.  At a Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA) Youth Team meeting, the week after the tragic death of Amanda Todd, the 15 year-old Port Coquitlam girl, who took her own life on October 10, 2012, male students reflected on the violence.

SWOVA’s Youth Team comprised of both young men and women, meets weekly throughout the school year, where youth become more self-aware, develop leadership skills and awareness of social justice.  Through this work, the youth team members go to the middle school on Salt Spring Island, to facilitate SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program (R+R) for Grade 7 and 8 students.  Their facilitation skills while conversing with younger students about racism, sexism, and homophobia are incredible.

At the Youth Team meeting shortly after Amanda’s death, young men and women talked about many things.  What stood out most for many was the desensitization and exploitation that can be part of the virtual internet world.  Young men acknowledged that Amanda Todd experienced exploitation, harassment, blackmail, and stalking – all of which comprise misogynistic violence – from a man who has not been caught yet.  All of this resulted in anxiety, social isolation, exclusion, and eventually life ending hopelessness.  What is indicative of the Amanda Todd case is that we live in a world where gender based violence is alive, well, and indeed thriving, although often unacknowledged.

Anti-bullying week occurred November 12-17 with the theme of “stand-up” to bullying!  Teachers here on Salt Spring Island such as Heidi Serra at Fulford Elementary School are working with students to be better friends.  For every negative bullying action a person can take; for every act of violence, there is an inverse and opposite positive action people can take.  We must, as Heidi Serra does, create a culture of peace and love in our schools.  We must, as Ghandhi once said, start with the children.  There are many things that can be learned from the Amanda Todd case.  Clearly though, stronger, better, and more widespread social and emotional learning is needed for children starting in Kindergarten.  This will build self-awareness, resilience, confidence and self-esteem in our youth.

Blake Peters is a grade nine student at GISS and one of many outstanding members of the youth team.  Struck by the tragedy of Amanda Todd’s death, he notes that we should all be part of ensuring that youth do not experience violence:

“As a part of the Salt Spring youth team I feel that Amanda Todd’s story is tragic and I feel deeply for the family and friends of hers. Things need to change to support kids, male and female; not just on Salt Spring but everywhere! For me this youth team has done just that. It supports everyone in it. If more places had groups like this I believe it could prevent the violence Amanda Todd experienced. Violence shouldn’t continue to happen and we can make a change if we want to! This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened and won’t be the last, but we can help prevent it.”

As a man engaged in the struggle to end all violence in the world, particularly that against women, it is a great honour to sit in circle with young men who are not only self-aware of the steps they need to take to create peace within themselves, but also the world.

For more information, please visit www.swova.org or www.togetheragainstviolence.wordpress.com

Written by: Blake Peters, Cole Smith and Kevin Vowles

The Bystander Effect?

A sexual assault in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia in September has aroused much concern and discussion.  A young woman aged sixteen was drugged and sexually assaulted at a party by a group of young men. It was videotaped and posted on the internet.  The result has been devastating for the young woman.  As people line up to take sides, some trying to defend what has occurred, Constable Darren Lench, RCMP has stated to the media that “It’s very clear from the evidence collected and her physical injuries that she was not a willing participant and it’s our belief she was drugged,” said Lench. “It’s very clear she was raped by more than one individual.”  A charge of sexual assault and of distributing child pornography have been laid to date.

Some of the debate has focused on whether schools need to be more proactive in teaching about proper use of social media, or whether this is the responsibility of parents.  I do not believe that it is a question of either/or.  Both parents and schools need to be involved in equipping students in the best way possible to deal with our complex technological world.

Going deeper, what would motivate a youth to see this sexual assault as a source of entertainment, videotape a brutal assault and spread it to the public via the internet?  Why didn’t the bystanders try to stop the assault or call for help?  There is a much bigger issue here than proper use of social media.  Empathy and respect for the victim are totally missing.  There is no sensitivity to the plight of the young woman and the effects that this assault will have on her life.  She became an object for titillation and ridicule.  She wasn’t a daughter, a sister, or a friend to show compassion to anyone. She wasn’t a fellow human being who needed help.

We can blame it on television, movies, and video games.  We can blame it on lack of appropriate parenting.  We can blame it on a school system that has turned a ‘blind eye’ to the impact of social media.  After we are finished blaming, what are we going to do to try to stop this madness?

For the past decade SWOVA Community Development and Research Society on Salt Spring Island has been working to develop, test and hone a program for youth called Respectful Relationships (R+R). There are twelve workshops for each student in grades 7, 8, 9, and 10 or 11.  This is a 48-workshop series on how to teach youth to have healthy and respectful relationships.  This is primary youth violence prevention and this is where we need to begin at build a foundation of wholeness for our children, with community and schools, women and men, youth and adults, working together.

We live in a society that bombards our youth with violence, sometimes with a de-sensitzing and de-humanizing result.  Our efforts must be on building a foundation for our youth so that they have the skills, awareness and emotional intelligence to create a peaceful world for the next generation.