Mav­er­ick School stu­dents talk about gen­der vi­o­lence dur­ing the White Rib­bon cam­paign

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG mlieben­[email protected]

Stu­dents and staff at Mav­er­ick School in Swift Cur­rent talked about the on­go­ing prob­lem of vi­o­lence against women dur­ing a class meet­ing on Nov. 29, which was part of the an­nual White Rib­bon cam­paign at the school.

The White Rib­bon cam­paign was started in Canada in 1991 in re­sponse to the École Polytech­nique mas­sacre in Mon­treal on Dec. 6, 1989. This cam­paign to pro­mote gen­der eq­uity and an end to gen­der-based vi­o­lence has spread to over 60 coun­tries.

Mav­er­ick School has par­tic­i­pated in the cam­paign for the past 21 years through the ini­tia­tive of long-time teacher Colin Smith.

“I heard about the cam­paign and I thought it’s a pretty im­por­tant cam­paign,” he told the Prairie Post af­ter the class meet­ing. “So then I thought we need to or­ga­nize some­thing at our school. We’ve done it ever since.”

He is not aware of any other school in Saskatchewan that par­tic­i­pates an­nu­ally in this cam­paign, which he be­lieves is im­por­tant to have in a school.

“As men and as boys we need to an­a­lyze our own be­hav­iours and ex­am­ine that, and hope­fully that can bring the change,” he said. “It is about change. It’s about end­ing the vi­o­lence against women, be­cause the stats from 21 years ago to now haven’t changed that sig­nif­i­cantly. So we have to do some­thing to change the vi­o­lence against women. It’s just alarm­ing, some of these stats.”

He fa­cil­i­tated the dis­cus­sion dur­ing the class meet­ing. He shared a statis­tic with the group from a 2015 study by the Cana­dian Women's Foun­da­tion, which found that Cana­di­ans agreed that sex­ual ac­tiv­ity be­tween partners should be con­sen­sual, but only one in three ac­tu­ally knew what con­sent means.

Dur­ing the class meet­ing he pre­sented a va­ri­ety of ques­tions and state­ments to the group for dis­cus­sion. His first ques­tion was what will you do when you see a man in a back­yard punch­ing a woman. Other ques­tions in­cluded how to pre­vent abuse in a close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship, is vi­o­lence against women a big prob­lem in Canada, what should hap­pen to men who abuse women, what would you do if you were in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship, and what would you do if you have a friend in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.

Af­ter the class meet­ing the male teach­ing staff held a meet­ing with male stu­dents to dis­cuss the dif­fer­ent forms of vi­o­lence against women (phys­i­cal, sex­ual, emo­tional/ver­bal, fi­nan­cial), the ex­tent of the prob­lem in so­ci­ety, what one can do to stop the nor­mal­iza­tion of vi­o­lence against women, con­sent, and what Cana­dian law says about con­sent to en­gage in sex­ual ac­tiv­ity.

Teacher Scott Hunter made a pre­sen­ta­tion as part of the dis­cus­sion. He re­ferred to data to high­light the fact that vi­o­lence against women is still a se­ri­ous prob­lem. Half of all women in Canada have ex­pe­ri­enced at least one in­ci­dent of phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence since the age of 16, and 67 per cent of Cana­di­ans have per­son­ally known at least one woman who has ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal or sex­ual abuse. In Saskatchewan and Man­i­toba the rates of vi­o­lence against women are dou­ble the na­tional rate.

Hunter noted that women have a dif­fer­ent lived ex­pe­ri­ence than men, for ex­am­ple when they walk alone to their car or when they have to de­cide if they are go­ing to en­ter an el­e­va­tor alone with a stranger.

The dis­cus­sion with stu­dents touched on var­i­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing the use of lan­guage and if it is OK to laugh at misog­y­nis­tic jokes or should you re­act to that and ex­press your dis­ap­proval.

“You have to de­cide what kind of man you want to be, and then just try to live that ev­ery day,” Hunter said.

Ac­cord­ing to Grade 12 stu­dent Grif­fin Funk it is use­ful to have the White Rib­bon cam­paign at Mav­er­ick School.

“I think it's a very good and im­por­tant thing to be putting in schools, be­cause peo­ple don't re­ally talk about vi­o­lence against women as much as they should,” he said af­ter this meet­ing with male stu­dents. “Peo­ple also don't know how large it is and how much it af­fects the women in their lives and the peo­ple they know.”

He felt the im­por­tant mes­sage from the dis­cus­sion was to think about how you treat a women and to re­spect their choice in re­la­tion to con­sent. He re­ceived use­ful in­for­ma­tion through the dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions pro­vided dur­ing the dis­cus­sion and he was sur­prised by the statis­tics about the preva­lence of vi­o­lence against women.

“I thought it would be a lot bet­ter just be­cause of the push for equal­ity,” he said. “I thought it would be get­ting bet­ter, but it still seems to be a very large prob­lem in our so­ci­ety as of right now that we need to fo­cus more at­ten­tion on than we have been.”

Funk sug­gested it will be ben­e­fi­cial if more schools par­tic­i­pate in the White Rib­bon cam­paign, which will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to learn more about the is­sues.

“If we can get this to more schools and talk about it, it will def­i­nitely help the sit­u­a­tion, be­cause I don't think a lot of men even re­al­ize the pat­terns they've got them­selves into with the way they think about women and talk about them,” he said. “A lot of them prob­a­bly don't agree with the way they do that, but they just don't see it. So to help them see that and just to help get this mes­sage out it will re­ally help the is­sue at hand.”

In the run-up to Dec. 6 a num­ber of other ac­tiv­i­ties took place at Mav­er­ick School as part of the White Rib­bon cam­paign. Male stu­dents made white rib­bons to send to male staff in the Chi­nook School Divi­sion. South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices held meet­ings with male and fe­male stu­dents to talk about healthy re­la­tion­ships, and the movie about the École Polytech­nique was shown on Dec. 5.

Teacher Scott Hunter makes a pre­sen­ta­tion dur­ing the meet­ing with male stu­dents, Nov. 29.

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg

Mav­er­ick School stu­dents and staff par­tic­i­pate in a class meet­ing dur­ing the White Rib­bon cam­paign, Nov. 29.

Teacher Colin Smith fa­cil­i­tated the dis­cus­sion dur­ing the class meet­ing of stu­dents and staff, Nov. 29.

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