Getting youth talking about sexual assault
Sexual violence. Consent. Rape.
They're uncomfortable topics for people of any age to discuss.
But the Surrey Women's Centre (SWC) is hoping its latest partnership with students from two local high schools will get youth to put aside the awkwardness and embarrassment and talk about sexual assault.
"They need to start discussing what they know and don't know, to avoid finding out the hard way," said Quinn, a student at Guildford Learning Centre. (Last names of students have been withheld for their privacy).
Located online at www.i-will.ca, the interactive social media campaign contains a gritty online quiz based on real experiences of sex, violence and relationships. Aimed at teens aged 13-18, it asks multiple choice questions about what sexual assault is, identifying sexist advertising, myths about the meaning of consent and gender comparisons.
It also has a series of questions addressing what to do if you've been assaulted or if an inappropriate photo of someone you know gets circulated or if you see a girl passed out at a party.
Sonya Boyce, executive director at the SWC, said as much as people might not want to talk about it, it's essential to get young people to take a proactive role.
"Social media was obvious for us as it's how youth exchange ideas about issues that impact them," she said. "Although it's going to make some parents uncomfortable – the questions are based on the real life experiences of today's youth."
She said the conversations are especially crucial in the wake of Port Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd's suicide last year and more recently, that of Nova Scotia's Rehtaeh Parsons – after sexualized photos of both were circulated relentlessly. Such incidents, she said, are too often referred to as bullying rather than sexualized violence.
"It's important because violence happens every day," said Coral, another Guildford student, when asked why she helped create the iWill campaign. "There aren't many places where we can take a stand and help make change. It also opened up the eyes of a lot of students."
Those who complete the quiz are eligible to win one of two iPad2 tablets.
Funded by the Department of Justice Canada, the website contains plenty of information on the laws surrounding sexual assault, information on available medical care and where to turn for help if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted.