‘End the Silence’ Facebook page opens up conversation
On March 21, a Facebook group emerged entitled End the Silence: Laurier. The group was created with the intent of allowing a safe place for students and survivors of sexual assault within the Wilfrid Laurier University community to anonymously share their stories of sexual assault and gendered violence. The page has quickly spread across the university and has been viewed hundreds of time since its inception.
“It’s a wonderful initiative, a great opportunity for those individuals to share stories,” said Adam Lawrence, the dean of students on the Brantford campus. “The fact that it is happening in our society and on our campus is terrible, but it’s another reinforcement to having to address this issue, and work with students and faculty.”
The group allows for students to share their stories, as well as to discuss how they feel sexual violence is talked about on campus. Lawrence believes using Facebook as a medium to promote this kind of space to talk is a good thing.
“We have known for quite a long time that people have used blogs and online forums to share their experience—I think this is an extension of that. How quickly the Facebook group has grown and the support in the group is incredible.”
Lawrence said that the topic of sexual assault on campus and creating a safe space for survivors and victims has become a “priority” for the administration in the university.
“We are continuing to meet with faculty and students about gendered violence. We are moving forward and figuring out what is the space that students can speak.”
Pricilla Jarvis, a volunteer at the Centre for Women and Trans People at Laurier, sees the group as allowing for communication to open up and for people to share their experiences.
“I think that we live in a culture, in regard to gendered violence, in which the only thing we know is silence. I think this page is a trying to create a forum for people to talk about their experience, and not have to name themselves as a survivor of gendered violence, and still for people to know that it is a thing.”
Jarvis believes that gendered violence and sexual assault hasn’t been addressed at all on campus.
“I don’t think Laurier addressed gendered violence. There is a student code of conduct we have to follow academically, but there is no code of conduct that we have to uphold as students. There is no accountability for gendered violence, and how it affects everybody,” Jarvis said.
“I think it’s creating visibility that wasn’t there prior and it’s accessible to everybody. It’s important to have these kinds of things.”
The Facebook group also clarifies that any “likes” to posts made by people are a sign of support. Lawrence sees the support as a sign that the group is creating a safe space.
“The individuals who are making comments and validating people’s experiences and feelings, and providing them links to resources are incredible. It warms my heart that people are reaching out for support.”
While the topic of sexual assault and gendered violence can be a tough topic for people, Lawrence sees the page as creating the space needed to talk about it.
“Aside from the support of students and faculty, there has been a huge push to address gendered violence. I feel that same level of interest and dedication, and this feels like we are doing it the right way. The Facebook page is one of those aspects of us moving forward,” said Lawrence.
The individuals behind the Facebook page did not respond to requests from The Cord for an interview.