By Afua Ohenewaa Amankwaah
In recognition of April being the Month of Sexual Assault Awareness, the inaugural Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID) week featured a Sexual Violence Awareness Event on the 24th of March. It was hosted by Kayla Hurst and presented by Anne Rudzinski, who works for the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention, Resistance, and Support at the University of Windsor. As part of the workshop, Anne taught how to support someone who discloses or experiences sexual violence. In her presentation, she provided the participants with an overview of the office and current initiatives, along with on- and off-campus resources.
Anne is the brains behind the bystander initiative, the Flip the Script program, the Prevent, Resist and Support podcast, and an interactive social media presence (Instagram, TikTok, etc) educating her audience and bringing Wonder Women self-defense to Windsor. She gave an outstanding presentation that explained every aspect of sexual violence in depth. She expounded on sexual misconduct as an umbrella term that encompasses all forms of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual violence and policy. Through her presentation, she discussed programs and initiatives that her team has been working on in Windsor to combat sexual violence. Anne informed us of the statistics regarding campus-based sexual violence and how we can prevent it.
There are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. The number of women who experience sexual violence in their lifetime increases to 1 in 3 during their lifetime and 1 in 4 during their undergraduate degree. This number is greater when they identify as a marginalised group and with Men being the dominant perpetrator. In many cases, people who have experienced sexual violence don't disclose this information and keep it to themselves because so many myths and questions lead to self-blame. Survivors of sexual violence have higher reported rates of PTSD than any other group (including war veterans). In her elucidation, she explained the need to break the stereotype of associating sexual violence with shame as well as having a gender-sensitive perspective. Again, understanding the structural barriers and doing what we can to overcome them.
"The most important thing to do is to believe the survivor and let them know that the Sexual violence office exists." – Anne Rudzinski
She explained her office's strategy for what to do in cases of sexual violence and how everyone processes it in their way.
‘‘Let them lead,” as Anne said first is a perfect demonstration of how people process in their way, and it is of high importance that we do not rush them. A common misconception is that how we might expect someone to behave after experiencing sexual violence should be clear, consistent, and chronological, but in reality, that is not the case. She also discussed how to provide support over time after disclosure has occurred, the language we use towards them, listening, non-blaming, and emotional support.
The presentation ended with Anne saying healing isn't linear, meaning it won't happen all at once. There isn't a set process for you to follow to go from "unhealed" to "healed." Your healing will be ongoing throughout your whole life as you cope with and overcome new hurts and obstacles.