Sexual violence campaign spells out support

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: PROVIDED BY LEAH MARSHALL
The letters for survivors campaign will be travelling through residences and in Forwell Hall on Valentine's Day.

Making campus a safer and more supportive place is as easy as writing a letter.

A new sexual violence awareness campaign hopes to channel some of the Valentine’s Day love and send it to survivors of sexual violence.

Love Letters for Survivors allows students to make a declaration of self-love or a letter to honour, support and embrace survivors of sexual violence on our campus.

Fanshawe’s sexual violence prevention advisor Leah Marshall said that a day celebrating love should be focused on everyone, including those who need it most.

“Sometimes Valentine’s Day is a very commercialized holiday that doesn’t have any meaning for a lot of people. We’re trying to take events and flip the script a bit.”

The campaign focuses around informing students about the realities of sexual violence and open up a conversation.

“It’s a way for us to address the myths and misinformed views that survivors of sexual violence are exposed to. A lot of our prevention initiatives are about debunking those myths.”

She said myths usually form around who perpetrates sexual violence and who is involved in it. Specific myths include that sexual violence is done only by strangers and that alcohol must be involved. Another uncommon myth involves who can be affected by sexual violence; Marshall said that men, women and non-binary identities can all be survivors of sexual violence.

The website inspired the concept, but Marshall wanted to make it more accessible to Fanshawe students.

“I thought that for the online community, that’s a really great way to seek these things out. But not everyone’s aware of them, and having this direct access will help connect our community.”

The project is one of many initiatives that helps turn the campus into a safe space for survivors and debunk rape culture. The hope is that as students move onto their careers and futures, they will bring this knowledge with them and help create better environments.

“[This project] is starting to create that space where it’s okay to ask questions and it’s okay to think about how you’re going to support a person in your class or a close friend that’s experiencing this,” Marshall said.

Many students feel more comfortable confiding in a friend or relative if they’ve experienced sexual violence and Marshall said that knowing what to do when faced with the situation will create a more caring campus.

“It maybe just takes reading one letter to let you know that there are other people on campus who have experienced this, and other people who want to be supportive and assist however they can.”

The plan is to take all the letters and have them on display in April for staff and students to see; a visual reminder of the safe and caring environment.

“Sometimes it can feel very isolating when you’ve experienced something like this, so showing that there’s many people on campus who do believe you and are willing to help is important.”

The project will be taking place this week in student residences and in Forwell hall on Valentine’s Day. Events will be taking place in Peregrine House on Feb. 8, Falcon House on Feb. 9 and Merlin House on Feb. 10. Each event takes place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Services are always available for students to access if they or someone they know is a survivor of sexual violence. Marshall is available to email or call in accessibility services in room F2010.

“We want students to have all the knowledge available to them because this is their healing process and they get to decide what that looks like.”