Diversity and Equity Office event mixes fine arts with awareness

Photo by Rebecca Allison

Photo by Rebecca Allison

With Tuesday being International Women’s Day, there was no better time for Wilfrid Laurier University’s Diversity and Equity Office to present their sexual assault creative demonstration Monday in the Concourse at the Waterloo campus.

The event, organized by first-year global studies student Kamil Ahmed, and Lynn Kane, coordinator of the gendered violence taskforce, featured a contemporary dance routine by Laurier students Linnea White and Sam Yoon. The dancers performed to the Lady Gaga song, “Till It Happens To You,” written for the documentary film ‘The Hunting Ground,” which discusses rape on campus in the United States. The film was screened on the Waterloo campus on February 25 in collaboration with the DEO and Women in Science, and will be filmed Wednesday in Brantford for Laurier Brantford Women’s Centre’s first event.

“We noticed that there was a disconnect between students and people who were behind the cause of sexual assault and rape especially in campuses,” Ahmed said.

“We wanted to bring [awareness of sexual violence] on campus, but a little bit differently. Usually there’s a speaker, there’s usually a panel. We wanted to get creative and get fine arts involved and use that as a platform of expression.”

Ahmed said he was influenced by those who’ve experienced instances of sexual violence to organize the demonstration. He said what stands out to him about Laurier students and members of the DEO is that it “doesn’t matter if you’re a part of something” — you can still help create change.

“Students especially make things happen when they have ideas in a way that I think other people should watch and take note of,” said Kane.

According to Ahmed, the purpose of the event was to focus on the “It’s On Us” campaign, an initiative to address sexual assault on university and college campuses.

“Regardless of if it’s happened to you or a friend, relative, brother, sister or whatever, it’s on us, the responsibility is on us and it’s time for us to take ownership because it’s happening around us,” Ahmed said.

Other initiatives on campus that continue the conversation of sexual consent and violence revolve around being a “pro-social” bystander. “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan To Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” was created by the Ontario government to change behaviours that contribute to sexual violence and harassment.

According to Kane, the DEO is also trying to emphasize consent and raise awareness, especially around holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day.

“We do ongoing bystander intervention training and we’re working with staff and faculty to provide more information about how they can respond to disclosures of sexual violence,” said Kane.

While Ahmed is not associated with the DEO, he wanted to open up the conversation surrounding sexual violence on university campuses.

“It’s all about collaboration, it’s all about innovation and creating change on campus.”

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