Written by: Henry Tran, Coordinating News Editor

On January 30, Simon Fraser University’s Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office (SVSPO), SFU Athletics, and SFU Residence and Housing, hosted a community dialogue about the importance of consent and bystander intervention. The dialogue was hosted at the Lorne Davies Complex by JR LaRose, a former BC Lions football player and current motivational speaker.

During the discussion on consent and bystander intervention, LaRose shared some statistics about sexual violence. “25% of women are assaulted in college, with most of the assaults occurring in the first eight weeks of classes, and one in three Canadian women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime,” LaRose told the crowd.

LaRose then provided analogies in the form of educational videos and personal anecdotes to educate the attendees on the concept of consent and bystander intervention. For example, he played the viral “tea and consent” video posted by Blue Seat Studios to demonstrate how saying no to having sex is the same as saying no to drinking tea and the importance of respecting that individual’s decision in either situations.

Following the presentation, there was a question and answer period where two designated SFU students, Sarah Law and Ryan Stoyls, asked LaRose questions regarding the topics of consent and bystander intervention. Law is a community advisor in SFU Residence and Housing; Stoyls is the vice-president engagement for the Student Athletic Advisory Council.

Stoyls asked LaRose what is the best way to assist someone who has experienced sexual assault but aren’t able to seek professional help. LaRose replied, “The best way to assist somebody that’s gone through it [ . . . ] is to let them know that it wasn’t their fault.”

“I think far too often when we wanna be there, be their support system, we ask questions like what were you wearing, what were you doing, how much did you drink. Screw all that,” Larose stated. “How about let’s be a real friend and support that person because they’re broken and that’s the last thing [they want] to talk about . . .”

Following that, Law asked: “Why are we as a culture so focused on how not to get raped versus not rape?” Law was wondering why women are held responsible for their own trauma, such as having to dress appropriately and go out in groups to protect them from being sexually assaulted.

LaRose responded, “This isn’t a women’s issue, it really is a men’s issue. Men should be the ones [holding] each other accountable for this . . . We as men need to really reshape what it is to be a man.”

Afterwards, LaRose answered questions asked by the general student body. Raffle prizes were drawn by the SVSPO staff at the end of the night to thank the students and staff for their attendance.

The discussion was part of the SVSPO’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a series of engagement opportunities that educates SFU students, faculty, and staff about sexual violence. The month-long initiative is a partnership between the SVSPO and other community partners such as the Simon Fraser Student Society and the Graduate Student Society, according to Ashley Bentley, an educator at the SVSPO.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month took place during January 2019 and consisted of a series of community outreach events and social media activities, according to the SVSPO’s website. This is the second Sexual Assault Awareness Month hosted by the SVSPO since its inception in March 2018, according to Bentley in an email interview with The Peak.

Bentley also explained that due to the academic calendar, the SVSPO has decided to move the Sexual Assault Awareness Month from March to January. It will run at the beginning of every January starting this year.

When asked what the SVSPO’s purpose was in organizing the Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Bentley replied, “It is a learning opportunity for people to engage in the topic in a low barrier and accessible way. The hope with creating communication campaigns and hosting events is to engage the entire university community on the topic of sexual violence, and to share some ways in which people can be a part of creating a culture of consent, care and respect at SFU.”