Thursday, July 14, 2011

A New Way of Thinking

The name’s Steve. I’m one of two rookies on the Youth4Change team this summer; the other being Sandra. I just finished my first year of environmental science at Mount Royal University in April so I (as well as my parents) thought it would be a good time to search for a summer job. I was lucky enough to be hooked up with an interview for Youth4Change through my sister. I started May 9th. Prior to this, I had no knowledge whatsoever dealing with the issue of sexual violence. The facts overwhelmed me.

1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be affected by sexual violence before their 18th birthday. Not only did this surprise me, it also frightened me. Learning that such a problem was so frequent yet so undisclosed did not sit well with me. Through the first 18 years of my life I had no idea how big of an issue sexual violence actually is. It was nice to join a youth oriented team such as Youth4Change that was created to engage adolescences on the topic of sexual violence. Since starting here around two months ago my whole view on the world has taken an entirely new direction.

Sexual violence is an unacceptable topic in our communities. This needs to change. It is an avoided conversation piece because it makes some people uncomfortable. If we want a sexual violence free society, we need to educate people on the problem and make them comfortable communicating about it. Education is the answer. If we teach today’s youth (the future) to be talkative and informative regarding sexual violence, then we are one step closer to a world without sexual violence.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Limitless Learning

Hey All!

I'm back at CCASA for a new season, for new experiences and more fun times! It feels so great to be back in such a non judgmental, friendly, welcoming place. On the youth4change team I work with Sandra, Steve and Joe who have taught me so much in the short while I have been back.

It's incredible how much I am able to learn from their experiences and ideas. Yes, I am the veteran on the team and do have more experience with CCASA however, the new things I learn everyday from each one of my team members is incredible. At CCASA we have some forward thinking beliefs that contradict what society is telling us everyday. It's hard to wrap your head around sometimes and especially difficult to express thoughts to people who aren't immersed in this work day in and day out. Working in this environment with great team members has allowed us to have some really stimulating conversations. I always come out with a new way to verbalize a thought or idea that I can share with my friends, family and you guys!

CCASA has provided us with an opportunity to learn and grow as people. This issue is so complex that I take every opportunity I can to learn. I feel like the more I read and the more I try to absorb I feel like the less I know. We are such a diverse group and getting other people's perspectives can really help shape my own. I love getting the male viewpoint on different concepts and readings. It really demonstrates the way our society is constructed and hopefully allows me to gain a deeper understanding of the issue and the impact it has on both men and women. Being given the opportunity to analyze, critique and apply my own experiences has helped shape me as a person at work but also in my day to day life. I look forward to sharing my thoughts, experiences and perspective with you throughout the summer. Continue reading

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Round 3!

Hey everyone we're back, and ready to go for round three of Youth4Change. It has been a very interesting start to the third summer of the Youth4Change program. We have some familiar faces and some new ones. Alex is back for her third summer and has settled into the role of the wily veteran nicely. Joe is back for his sophomore season. Stevo and Sandra are our rookie members.

Our summer is starting off with a BANG! Our website is finally completed and we have been super busy planning our launch event. We want to give a quick shout out and mad props to Telus, our website funders, as well as Louder Than 10, our web designers. This site is going to be an amazing resource for our fellow youth. Everyone holds a stake in creating social change to end sexual violence! I seriously recommend all of you check out our site,

We are excited to share our thoughts on different issues and our experiences out in the community. Be sure to stay up to date on our blog about upcoming web contests and activities, we have awesome prizes to give away!

Looking forward to talking with you more this summer!

Youth4Change. Continue reading

Monday, July 12, 2010

Will judgement come??

Well it's been over 8 months since my last post and how I have missed it. I will be blogging about Roman Polanski and how he has currently been released from house arrest in Switzerland. Polanski has avoided extradition to the U.S. for a sexual assault charge that he was arrested for back in 1977.

Now let's get to know Mr. Polanski a little before we go any further.

Roman Polanski is best known for his work on films such as The Pianist, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and Tess. Collectively all his films have earned Polanski 10 Oscars and many other awards. He has received many achievement awards and has entertained millions of people across the world with his visionary films and stories.....

Now if you were a fan of his films you would probably put Polanski on a pretty high pedestal right!? How could someone who is so successful, and respected in the film industry do anything like sexually assaulting a 13 year old girl? It couldn't happen, this girl was definitely after money or something.... right!?

Well let's look into this scenario. Samantha Geimer (who was 13 in 1977) was asked by Polanski to model for a French edition of Vogue. Her mother agreed and the photo shoot proceeded. Following the first shoot Polanski asked Geimer again to participate in a followup shoot on March 10, 1977. It was on this second visit things went array. Geimer testified that Polanski gave her champagne with Quaalude (a sedative drug) then proceeded to preform oral sex, vaginal sexual intercourse, and sodomy (a law term meaning unnatural sex which by definition contains oral or anal or non-genital to genital congress.) Throughout all of this Geimer continuously expressed her resistance and how she NEVER consented.

Polanski's response was that he never drugged her, and that she "wasn't unresponsive," and she didn't respond in a negative manner when he was "checking" to see if she was enjoying what he was doing.

Now hold on a sec, he says he was checking in to see if what he was doing was enjoyable. First of all she did not consent EVER, second she was 13 years old and according to the law she could never consent anyways. Essentially a plea bargain was met and Polanski had 5 0f 6 charges dropped, and he pleaded guilty to one charge which today would be considered statutory rape (or child sexual abuse in Canada.) After a period of time in the Chino state prison for a psychiatric evaluation, a sentencing was to be determined but Polanski fled the U.S. to Europe in fear of going to prison.

Now those who defend Polanski would make an argument such as, "It happened such a long time ago and he has learnt his lesson." or "He has already paid for his crimes, he's been forced out of the U.S. for the past 3 decades and has been denied his desire to make films." Hello reality check, HE RAN AWAY! He's been hiding out in Europe for the past 30 years to avoid going to jail. To have so many people believe that he was pardoned or should be for his crimes is ridiculous. If it were any other crime such as murder, fraud, or drug charges they would be upheld no matter how much time has passed.

In my eyes this sorry excuse of a man ran away from his actions; too afraid to face the consequences of what he had done to this young girl. It is also amazing to hear what people have said to rationalize what he did;

- He's an award winning director
- His wife was murdered
-He didn't beat her so it's not that bad
-She should have known better
-She was trying to get his money
-She didn't fight back

Society has developed quite a loud way of defending the actions of those who we see as role models or those with skills and talents we see as powerful.

It's frustrating to hear that people have tried and are still petitioning Polanski's release and pardon. What I am trying to reinforce is that no matter how long ago an assault happened it is still sexual assault. It is important to understand that with power comes entitlement, and Polanski felt owed, or deserving of whatever he wanted. This justification of his actions made it "OK" (in his mind) to do what he wanted and no one could say otherwise. Being a director in Hollywood gave Polanski a magnitude of power, and he saw that this power could be channeled to all aspects of his life so that his desires can be met no matter what.

This is where society has a flawed design around sexual assaults. There are so many stigmas and myths that are relentlessly thrown at us in general and we forget who is to blame. As a community we must stand together and support survivors while shaming offenders. No matter who they are. Just because Polanski makes award winning films and earns millions of dollars doesn't excuse him from what he did. The Superior Court Judge - Peter Espinoza- has ruled that Polanski must return to the U.S. for sentencing, although it was recently announced that Polanski has been released from house arrest on July 12, 2010, meaning he's a free man once again.

What can be taken away from this man's crime is that there can be more young girls, boys, women or men who suffered through the same events but were silenced by Polanski and the world. Evidence of this was discovered on May 14, 2010 when a London actress Charlotte Lewis told the world that Polanski sexually abused her in 1982 when she was 16 years old. Polanski could have been in jail for the majority of the past 3 decades but instead he has avoided his sentencing and has been able to stay out of American jurisdictions, and has been able to live his life as be pleases. How is this just? Does he acknowledge or even feel remorse for all the pain, suffering, guilt and embarrassment he instilled in his victim? More likely victims?

I leave you with a quote from Lewis's attorney...

"I think what is important is she came forward now," Allred said, "Not only is it not too late, there's still time if the other victims want to come forward."

We will have to wait and see if Polanski ends up facing the judge. Time will tell.

-KB Continue reading

Monday, June 21, 2010

The New Guy.

Hey Kids;

I'm J Camp, and I’m the newest member of the Youth 4 Change team. I have been working at CCASA or Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse for a little over a month now and have really enjoyed the work the team has been doing. I'm very much looking forward to what the rest of the summer has in store for me and the rest of my team.

I feel the Youth 4 Change team is very unique in that we have a wide variety of different back grounds none of which is related to social work, as almost all the rest of our colleagues here at CCASA have. On our team we have Alex; she’s going to school to become a doctor. Also there's Kara, or KB, who recently graduated from the film and video production program at SAIT. Then there is Joe who graduated from the same film and video production program and has a philosophy degree from the U of L. Then there is me, I am currently in my 2nd year of my Business and Sports administration degree at MRU.

The other three Youth 4 Change members are returning from last summer. They really had a leg up on me with regards to the knowledge of CCASAs' beliefs, key messages, and all of the programs and services that CCASA offers to their clients. That was quite intimidating to say the least, as time goes on however I'm starting to get a grasp of things, and hopefully I’ll be able to pass some of that wisdom onto you!!

It got me very excited on the first day to learn how passionate and excited the team was about continuing and expanding from what they had accomplished last year! To fill you all in here is (to the best of my understanding) last summer in 5 sentences or less. The team developed quite an elaborate multi-media campaign that included designing several posters, a 30 second public service announcement, as well developing a website with all the information any "youth" would need to know about sexual violence. They also were able attend several presentations that the CCASA staff runs for all different kinds of people from 5 years old, to working professionals. They created the Youth 4 Change tag line, "Because I don’t want Sexual Violence to be a part of my world". That tag line I think is the reason that all of us on the team want to spread our messages as well as create change in our society.

I have learned so much in the short time I have been here. That being said, before I began working here I had very little knowledge on the issue of sexual violence and how big of a problem it is in "my world". However, I do think that a lot of people share that lack of knowledge, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is an issue that is ignored too often by society. It’s sad to say, but the average person is more educated on the Slap Chop then they would be on sexual violence.

The most surprising to me is how huge this problem is and how little it is talked about. Did you know 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience sexual abuse? According to statistics Canada in 2009 the Canadian population was 33 739 900. There is 16 732 500 men and 17 007 400 women. That means in Canada alone there are 8 457 883 people who have been impacted.

The largest non-racing stadium in the world is Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang North Korea, it seats 150 000 people. The 8 457 883 people in Canada that are affected by sexual violence could fill the stadium 56 and half times. Beaver Stadium in University Park is the home of the Penn State Nittnany Lions and is the largest non-racing stadium in North America. It seats upwards of 107 202 people. The people in Canada that are affected by sexual violence could fill the stadium 79 times!

If that’s not enough in 2007 the population of New York City was 8 274 527. That means there are 183 356 more people in Canada are affected by sexual abuse then the population of the largest city in North America. For the record that extra 183 356 people could fill Calgary’s McMahon stadium 5 times. WOW!

The Youth 4 Change team has a very busy summer planned. We are adding the final touches on our new website. We are also looking for places to launch, and support our poster campaign. The team is also looking for different locations and creative new ways to engage and educate youth in the city of Calgary on the issue of sexual violence and the support CCASA offers. We are going to begin the Youth 4 Change lunch time Blitz! We will be going out and about the city of Calgary during the lunch time hours. We will be well equipped with information pamphlets, our t-shirts, some cool prizes, and of course candy! Everybody loves candy!

If you see us out there in our black and white shirts, please come talk to us. Ask us questions, challenge our beliefs, and find out what we’re doing!

Hopefully I’ll be back here blogging telling you all about our exciting adventures very soon. Until then, stay up to date with what's going on with us here on our site. We are also on Face Book as Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse.

Later Days!

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Out in the real world!

Hello all,

Sorry to have taken a hiatus during the past month or so, but the youth4change group was working hard on finishing up our campaign and commitments for the summer. We are no longer physically at CCASA, but our minds and thoughts still linger with their teachings and philosophies.

But you might be wondering, "If they are done working, why the writing?" Well I guess I still have things to say, and I definitely want to keep my involvement in the issue. Especially now since I am back in the real world and have been smacked in the face with reality once again.

During my 4 months of work at CCASA, I have been able to develop great friendships and comrades who all share same beliefs and opinion when it comes to the fight against sexual violence in our society. This sense of belonging has been such a support system and looking back on the summer, it would have been extremely hard to work on this issue had I been working on it alone. So this is one of my dilemmas when it comes to normal life again. I have returned to school and I can't help but feel alone when it comes to my beliefs and opinion (around social justice issues). Additionally I have come face to face with the very thing that our group has been trying to address all summer; acts of sexual harassment and objectification that are so popular in our civilized society today. The quick sexist joke here, the whistling there, and all I can do is furiously scan through my brain and tell myself, "SAY SOMETHING!" Well it definitely hasn't been that easy.

This is the prime example of how embedded these thoughts are and how difficult it is to stand up to people who are saying these rather offensive things. I state on the record that it is not easy to speak up. So what to do?

Well, I have been able to talk to some of my closer friends about the work I've done over the summer and answered any questions they had. Additionally, I have had a couple of discussions/debates with a few people about the issues and I've discovered a wonderful thing. I can actually explain and discuss the issue in an informative and constructive manner. I think it's important to understand that if we attack someones beliefs, we are disrespecting the individual, putting them lower than ourselves (which goes against everything that CCASA and I stand for). I have found that, when faced with a discussion around the issue where people are keen on holding onto their "myth based" beliefs, it's far more effective to simply start asking them questions like, "Well if it was your sister, (or other family member) would you think differently?" "Do you think they would ask to be assaulted?" "Just because it happened a long time ago do you think it should just disappear and be forgotten?"

Usually the discussion is able to continue and eventually some new facts are planted and the seeds of change begin to work their magic. I can't believe how many people truly believe sexual violence myths. I guess it goes back to my support system again. I have been able to work in an environment where myths do not exist and the issue is well understood. So being forced back into a world where people still believe that sexual assault and sexual abuse are results of a lack of prevention on the survivor's end is undeniably baffling. I see the world in a different light now, and I can't turn off the part of my brain that cries out, "it's time this stopped!"

On the C-Train a couple of days ago, for example, a group of male college students were gathered in a middle section of the train and started talking about the class they'd just left. One of the guys blurted out, "God, that teacher of ours is such a sexist bitch. She's so scared shitless that she's in a class of men that she can fucking teach right." All the other students nodded with agreement, and another one of the men said, "Yeah, that sexist bitch should go back to beauty school."

Now I have to explain the manner in which these group of men where expressing their ever so pleasant opinions. I had my headphones on and was at least 4 seats ahead of them and I could hear them loud and clear. Not only that, but I decided to take a good look around to see if anyone else was hearing what I was... and, low and behold, a young mother with her child were sitting probably 2 seats away. I couldn't believe that these guys were blurting out such offensive words in a public place with an obvious intent for others to hear. I was also amazed by how quickly they moved onto another topic (sports, drinking at Jared's that night). I tried not to listen to any more of the discussion, but it was quite difficult since I was becomming really agitated. This is just one example of unacceptable behaviour that I have encountered in the past 3 weeks.

So what do I take away from this grim reality that we seem to live in? Well I guess I have to admit that we live in a rather screwed up world, but I also believe that people can change it. I know that over time I will be able to pick my battles with those who decide to make light of sexist comments and harassment. I still have a lot to learn but over time things will change because those who surround me in my life support my beliefs and thoughts, so as long as my support is behind me I can keep moving forward.

So how do you all feel about the people in our society who seem to be completely oblivious to how their words and actions affect others?

Thanks again for all of those who have been supporting the blog, and make sure you check out CCASA's site (it's on the side bar).

My next post will talk about Roman Polanski, and his attempt to run away from drug affiliated rape charges from back in 1977... I'm a film student I have to examine this :) Till next time.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

New Rules to Help Rape Victims

I know all my previous posts regarding newspaper articles and TV commercials have been all about debunking myths and tearing apart the victim blaming. But I finally came upon an article that shines a little light onto the issues surrounding sexual violence. "New Rules to Help Rape Victims" is an article that was published in The Dominion Post (a New Zealand newspaper). This is the same paper that published "The Dark Side of a Girl's Night Out," the article that Joe blogged about in his last post. It's surprising to see such polar opposite mindsets in one newspaper.

Way too often cases are deemed inactive (not enough evidence to go to trial) because the survivor never explicitly said "no" during the assault. As KB posted earlier, there are different ways to react during an assault; fight, flight or freeze and not everyone will react the same way. Fortunately, the article has some positive news regarding this issue:
Defendants accused of rape could also face a new test of consent meaning a woman would effectively have to have said 'yes' to sexual activity rather than simply not saying 'no'.
This new rule will bring justice to all those who had a normal response to the attack by freezing. Passing this rule will no longer allow perpetrators to use the excuse that they didn't know the other party wasn't consenting. This puts the responsibility back on the offender to obtain consent before continuing rather than allowing them to push the boundaries until they hear a "no" which often isn't said. Consent is not difficult to identify. Either both parties are willing, active participants or verbal consent was freely given. Even if there is still uncertainty, JUST ASK and this rule puts emphasis on this.

This comes back to "yes means yes" rather than "no means no" because there are many ways to show resistance which aren't always verbal. Closing eyes, turning away, and laying limp are all signs of resistance but, as of now, these are not recognized by the law. This new rule will validate all those that showed signs of resistance but were ignored by the offender who continued anyway.

It is understood Mr Power wants to go further by restricting the ability of defence lawyers to discredit rape complainants by trawling through their sexual histories.

Defence lawyers would have to convince judges of the merit of such evidence before it could be admitted.

This is only common sense! What does sexual history have to do with someone's sexual assault? Anyone at anytime has the right to resist sexual advances and someone's sexual history plays no part in that. This is the pinnacle of victim blaming and it is done by our so called "justice system." The sexual assault itself is incredibly traumatizing on its own, but to be discredited by unrelated events is unimaginable. This new rule is a step towards equality when it comes to the justice system. There will not only be justice for "good girls," but for everyone no matter what their sexual history is.

Perhaps Canada could learn a thing or two from these actions taken by New Zealand. It's a few baby steps in the right direction. There is hope now that certain governments are taking progressive action and are becoming more sensitive to the issues of sexual violence.

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