Last week, a new UFV student club called “Yes Means Yes” launched an awareness campaign at Baker House residence. The campaign aims to create a positive awareness about sexual consent on campus and is in response to shortcomings in the current system, demonstrated as recently as last year. The Yes Means Yes campaign’s debut event also saw them serving free chili while discussing the issue of sexual assault on university campuses.
“We started it because our friend last year, she was sexually assaulted at UFV and, to put it pretty bluntly, the system here failed her,” says Mikayla Sherry, co-president of the Yes Means Yes student club. As a result, the student ended up switching schools due to the lack of support she received at UFV.
“This is our first night technically where we’re going to hand out brochures,” Sherry said.
Basing pamphlet info on recent statistics, the Yes Means Yes campaign shared that “[one in five women] who attend universities are sexually assaulted — 34 per cent of them are physically forced, 57 per cent of them are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and four per cent have been administered drugs without their knowledge,” said Sherry in her initial presentation at Baker House. Sixty-three per cent of males who admitted that they have indeed raped someone, have also done it more than once. Furthermore, less than five per cent of rapes are reported to universities and law enforcement. Statistics also show that Aboriginal women are more likely to be victims of sexualized violence than other women in our communities.
“We saw a need,” Sherry says. “We saw UVic do ‘Let’s Get Consensual’ and we saw the ripple effect that was happening, and we saw that UFV needed that,” Sherry says. “We started a Facebook group not thinking anything about it and we actually had a lot of followers of people who wanted to get involved.”
The Yes Means Yes club’s objectives have already received support by UFV’s student services, criminal justice student association (CJSA), Baker House, counselling services, and the criminology department.
“We’ve worked with Kyle Baillie also — he’s the head of Student Life,” Sherry says. “He’s allowed us to be involved with the whole process of developing a new reporting system and a new website.”
Prior to Sherry and Claudia Stancec’s advocating for a culture of consent, another UFV student, Sean Phillips, from the Anti-Violence Project in Victoria also attempted to create a safe-space culture on campus.
“I previously failed at an attempt about a year and half ago and [had] previously gone to another university to get training in this,” Phillips says. “Then I saw people here getting it, and I jumped right on board and thought, ‘Oh I need to get involved, here’s the real push.’”
To most people, the idea of naming a sexual assault awareness and consent campaign “Yes Means Yes” can create a bit of confusion.
“We wanted to make sure that the message was positive … when you’re saying ‘No Means No’ it can be taken badly, in that we’re saying for you not to be engaged in sexual activity, or we’re saying, ‘No, we don’t want you to be looking at it that way,” Phillips says. “[Instead] we want it to be enthusiastic, saying ‘Yes! I am interested in this!’ rather than focusing on the negative aspects.”
To further the campaign, there will be further events following this past week’s chili night in order to increase discussions about sexual violence on university campuses.
“We’re going to be doing a whole bunch of things on campus,” says Christine Zapisocki, manager of student housing and residence life at Baker House. On April 8 there will be a panel discussion hosted by the Yes Means Yes campaign. The panel will include two instructors from UFV’s criminology department, a representative from Abbotsford Community Services, a representative from the “Let’s Get Consensual” campaign at the University of Victoria, and the director of UFV’s Student Life, Kyle Baillie, who will be discussing the processes currently taking place at UFV. On the same day, there will also be a “Let’s Get Consensual” workshop as a precursor to the Fall 2016 Baker House orientation program that is currently under review.