Written by Youeal Abera, Staff Writer
SFU’s annual #ConsentMatters campaign took place this year from September 24 to 28. With items such as consent toolboxes (developed by the SFSS’s Women’s Centre), and pamphlets explaining the services of the SVSPO, #ConsentMatters informed individuals on the resources the university provides for those dealing with incidents of sexual violence.
The Peak also spoke with SVSPO director Dr. CJ Rowe about the impact the SVSPO and the #ConsentMatters campaign aims to make on SFU.
The Peak: Hello! Please introduce yourself.
CJ Rowe: Certainly. My name is CJ Rowe, and I’m the the director of the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office here at SFU. My pronouns are they/them/their.
P: The SVSPO is an imperative entity. Would you mind explaining what the SVSPO is, and how it’s been impacting SFU?
CJR: The SVSPO has been open since February 1, 2018. The office was created in response to the development of the sexual violence and misconduct policy, GP 44. It was legislated by BC that all institutions of higher education would have a stand-alone sexual violence prevention policy. So, the work that we’re doing is providing survivors (or acquaintances who have supported someone in their disclosure process of sexual violence misconduct) with an opportunity to engage with, what I hope will be, their healing process — whichever way it may look like right now, or in years to come. We really want to centre the voices and needs of the survivors so that they’re making the choices that are right for them.
P: The BC government is currently in their sexual violence prevention and support campaign for post-secondary institutions. Was the #ConsentMatters campaign created with this in mind?
CJR: To my understanding, the #ConsentMatters campaign originated two or three years ago as a partnership between SFU’s athletic department and student development services. The campaign that the provincial government’s developed, and the #ConsentMatters campaign, are two separate campaigns.
P: What do you believe was the main incentive for creating the #ConsentMatters campaign for SFU?
CJR: I wasn’t part of that campaign, and its development a few years ago. With that said, I can speak to what our intentions are right now. Our intention with our campaign this year is to engage our campus communities in a conversation about what consent means, whether in a sexual relationship, a hook-up, a friend group, or our families. Consent matters in every aspect of our lives. It’s about clearly articulating our wants, needs, and boundaries, as well as listening to other needs, wants, and boundaries.
P: Will the #ConsentMatters campaign be an annual event?
CJR: I would say yes. I’m excited to see what we’ve learned from this year’s conversation, and how we can start planning for next September. I’m also really excited to see where we might be able to grow partnerships so that we may be able to do a bit more next year . I wanna know: is the timing right? How do we more actively engage staff and faculty in this conversation? I would say that this year’s campaign is quite heavily student focused, but these conversations impact all of us.
The Peak also interviewed Caitlin Doherty, a fourth-year co-op student interning with SFU’s SVSPO to learn more about the office and how it functions within the SFU community.
P: We hear of students being assaulted at universities. What are some tips for students to avoid being a bystander?
Caitlin Doherty: The SVSPO facilitates the ‘Active Bystander Network’, a network that provides strategies for how students can shift from being a bystander to an active bystander. The SVSPO and the ABN emphasizes the idea that it requires us all to challenge sexual violence on campus.
P: Where can students receive resources for help with sexual violence?
CD: We highly recommend that people come to the SVSPO. It’s in the Diamond Alumni Centre, but our case managers are available Monday to Friday to help all staff, faculty, and students navigate sexual violence-whether at any SFU campus or a safe, off-campus location. More information on support and education is available on the SVSPO’s website.