ALLIES EVERYWHERE NEED TO SPEAK UP AGAINST ANTI-BLACK VIOLENCE, RACISM, MISOGYNY, COLONIALISM, HOMOPHOBIA, AND ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION
Intersectional solidarity approaches have guided social justice and human rights movements for decades, helping to raise awareness about different experiences of disenfranchised and vulnerable communities. Experiences of disadvantage and stigma are based on many interlocking factors including but not limited to: gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ethnicity, ability, etc. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go in achieving full equity and equality.
The recent systemic racism cases that we have seen against the black community, in particular the tragic incidents of George Floyd in the USA and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, are truly alarming. The rally against black racism that happened in Toronto on May 30th demanding justice for Regis, speaks to the frustration of the community and the need for justice and a structural change at the highest levels.
There is also an urgent need for intersectional solidarity of all community stakeholders to amplify efforts in raising awareness about the challenges, and the silence experienced by vulnerable communities; whose needs and realities have been shadowed and rendered invisible.
White Ribbon believes that community awareness and sensitivity to our intersectional realities is a collective responsibility. It is crucial to stress the need and the importance of male allyship at a personal, community, and systemic level; especially in empowering and providing support sensitive to the realities of our communities.
All of us across social, cultural, gender and sexual identities, abilities, and economic locations need to be engaged to interrogate our privilege, learn about it, name it, and engage in dialogue with those who deny it by referring to the history of colonization and racism in Canada, and its ongoing impacts.
Anti-black violence and racist attitudes have detrimental impacts on broader communities of colour as a product of colonization, imperialism, and the lack of representation of those who do not fit white normative standards.
It is crucial to reiterate the importance of a life-long commitment to unlearning racism and other forms of oppression. Allyship is not a checklist, but rather a never-ending personal journey to end discrimination and violence.
Having brave conversations about white privilege, colonialism, and racism with our friends and family members is important. It is never too late to start unpacking these issues and how they function within broader institutions, including our justice and law-enforcement systems, and de-legitimize the human rights and opportunities of marginalized communities.
To prevent violence and harm in our communities, we need to encourage more men and boys to represent our wide and rich diversity and embrace their role as allies.
We call on allies in our community to speak up against racism, misogyny, homophobia, and all forms of discrimination, at all times, but especially when they believe someone needs support. We encourage allies to share words of support with those experiencing hard times and provide space to address harmful behaviours and share positive alternatives.
We urge allies to check in with their neighbours, friends, and family members, including survivors of violence and discrimination in their lives, to ensure they have the support that they need.
Male allyship needs to be encouraged at all layers of the society, from systemic to community levels; as it takes all of us to end the structural anti-black violence that we continue to witness every day.
We offer these four steps to help you demonstrate allyship in our everday life:
BELIEVE: Listen to and believe black voices speaking out against racism, discrimination, violence and oppression.
ENCOURAGE: Men and boys around you to take actions of solidarity and work with people in the community to raise awareness about the challenges of marginalized people including but not limited to racism, systemic discrimination, and anti-black violence.
SUPPORT: Check in on your neighbours, friends, and family members in need of support and refer them to available services in the community. You can also offer support by donating to anti-black violence prevention organizations and use your platform to amplify their voices.
TEACH other men and boys around you to be allies. Encourage allies and role models in your community to discuss allyship and solidarity with friends, family members, partners, and neighbours.
We offer the following additional resources to help you learn more about the role you can play in ending anti-black violence and racism.
Book: The Skin We’re In. Desmond Cole (2020)Book: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Robin DiAngelo (2018)
5 Initial Ways you can be a better ally to people of colour
Desmond Cole: 'Canada insists on being surprised by its own racism'
Anti-racism resource collection. Resource Sharing Project
Lupita Nyong'o: Colourism is the daughter of racism
Justice for Regis
Black Lives Matter Toronto
A Fund for Black-led Mental Health Supports
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS FOR BLACK COMMUNITIES
Toronto, April 26, 2020
We at White Ribbon are heartbroken at the tragic incident in Nova Scotia last weekend. This horrible act together with the loss of 22 people has brought much pain and suffering to the victim’s families, friends, and colleagues, to the local communities, to the RCMP family, and to all Canadians. We stand in solidarity with everyone impacted by this tragedy and we join in our collective grief and mourning.
While we await further information from the investigative process, we must not lose sight that the gunman began his killing spree with acts of violence against his girlfriend, and may have targeted and killed his ex and her partner. As has been the case in similar past incidents in Canada and the USA, men’s use of extreme violence is often fueled by gender-based violence including domestic violence, deep misogyny, and hatred including racism, xenophobia and homophobia.
White Ribbon supports the call from Women’s Shelters Canada for confirmation that the gunman targeted his current and former partners and any history of domestic violence. Furthermore, we call on all of us, in particular on all men and boys to speak out against this heinous act of violence, and against everyday misogyny, gender-based violence, and all forms of discrimination. Men and boys can play an important role by never committing, condoning or remaining silent about all forms of gender-based violence, in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.
As we remember the 30th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre, the second anniversary of the Toronto van attack, and the countless other acts of violence committed by men, it’s more important than ever to consider the gender dimensions of these horrific actions. Preventing future incidents of violence like these requires us to address the roots of this hatred. In addition, we are deeply concerned about the increase in domestic violence, violence against front-line workers, racial and sexual harassment (online and offline), abuse and exploitation of vulnerable women workers, and sexual exploitation and violence against children and youth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this time of crisis (and every day), men must: recognize the impact of their harmful behaviours on others and commit to change; reach out for help when needed; embrace their role as role models and allies in promoting gender equality and supporting survivors; speak out, and commit to ending gender-based violence. We must strengthen our collective resolve to work together with government, researchers, law enforcement, and community organizations to promote gender equality and to identify and prevent the root causes of men’s violence.
White Ribbon’s gender-based violence primary prevention with men and boys is a key part of the solution, to ensure men’s use of everyday violence and tragedies like these never happen again. For more information about our work, visit www.whiteribbon.ca.
For media enquiries, contact Humberto Carolo, Executive Director, White Ribbon, [email protected].
WHITE RIBBON RESOURCES
White Ribbon has many educational and awareness resources to help you, your family, students, co-workers, and community members. Use any of the resources below or reach out to us at [email protected] for more information. If you would like to book a virtual educational session with your students, youth in the community, or staff, please visit our workshops page for more details.
Steps you can take to help end gender-based violence and promote gender equality:
1. Sign the White Ribbon Pledge to never commit, condone, or remain silent about gender-based violence, and subscribe to our mailing list to receive our newsletter and regular updates.
2. Check out our Boys Don't Cry Campaign to learn about the impact of harmful stereotypes and gender norms, and the links to toxic masculinity and gender-based violence. Our 10 tips for promoting healthy masculinity will help you raise gender equitable, emotionally literate boys.
3. Visit our Men of Quality Campaign, a partnership with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and get some inspiration on allyship and what men can do to help end gender-based violence.
4. Visit White Ribbon's Draw the Line Campaign for information and tools to end all forms of sexual violence.
5. Become a White Ribbon Neighbours, Friends, and Families Immigrant and Refugee Community Ally and learn about domestic violence, its roots causes, and how to prevent violence against women and children in our community.
6. Visit our It Starts With You Campaign to learn more about being a good role model and the steps you can take to promote gender equality, healthy masculinities and end gender-based violence.
7. If you are experiencing gender-based violence, you are not alone. You are loved and supported. Reach out for help and visit Shelter Safe Canada or the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres for assistance near you. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
8. If you are concerned about your mental health, or behaviour, or you have used or are using violence (verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, financial), it’s important that you seek immediate help. Your well-being and the safety of those around you is paramount. Pause, reflect, make amends, and reach out to supports near you. You deserve help, and you owe it to yourself, your family and friends.
9. For COVID-19 related information including health related questions, financial help, support programs, and community resources, please visit the dedicated Government of Canada information portal.
As the original White Ribbon Campaign that served as the inspiration for our global movement to end violence against women, we are saddened by the news of White Ribbon Australia’s closure as a charitable organization.
Since 2003, White Ribbon Australia has played an important role in mobilizing men and boys to speak out about violence against women across Australia. The independently-run organization created numerous innovative programs, resources, and campaigns that engaged men and boys in schools, communities and workplaces across the country. We thank the many volunteers, staff, and supporters who led and facilitated this important work over the years.
What this news means moving forward
White Ribbon in Canada continues to work with like-minded partners all over the world to engage men and boys in promoting gender equality, speaking out against all forms of gender-based violence, in transforming masculinities, and addressing systemic inequities. We use an intersectional, feminist and human rights inspired approach to challenge men’s use of gender-based violence and other forms of oppression, including racism, colonialism, homophobia and transphobia. Our programs, campaigns and resources are developed in partnership with many community organizations in the diverse women’s movement and partners in various sectors, including government, media, corporations, and UN agencies. Our work is rooted in the belief that men and boys can and must be strong allies in ending gender inequality together with women, girls, and people of all genders.
The important work carried out by over 60 White Ribbon campaigns around the world will continue, and we invite you to join us in our efforts to promote gender equality and end gender-based violence.
Visit whiteribbon.ca to access our resources and campaigns; find out how to become an ally; take our pledge; link up with diverse organizations and initiatives in Canada around the world; and be part of creating a safer, inclusive, gender-equitable future for everyone.
About White Ribbon
The White Ribbon Campaign was created in Canada in 1991, two years after the December 6 Montreal Massacre, where 14 women were murdered at L’ecole Polytechnique. White Ribbon symbolizes a man’s pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. Since its Canadian inception in 1991, independent White Ribbon Campaigns have been organized in over 60 countries around the world by local volunteers, community organizations, schools, governments, and workplaces.
Become a Founding Member of Strengthening Ties
With Women’s Shelters Canada’s innovative new initiative, Strengthening Ties, men across the country have a concrete way to help end violence against women. Until now, private donations to support Canada’s violence against women (VAW) shelter system have largely come from women. Strengthening Ties gives men the opportunity to change that through a financial pledge, providing both connection and critical funding to end violence against women.
Founding donors pledge $1,000 a year for three years (or in monthly installments). The short-term vision for this circle of male allies is to address the gender balance of supporters for VAW shelters and transition houses in this country. The long-term vision involves a much loftier goal: to end the need for VAW shelters in Canada, period.
Learn more about the work these donations support and how to join this initiative here.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Darius Diongco and I have participated in Walk A Mile In Her Shoes for 4 years. This will be my fifth year.
Why is gender-based violence and violence against women an important issue for you to take action on?
To me this cause is very important because growing up as a child, I lived in a household full of women. My Dad left for Canada when I was 2 so up until I was 9, I lived with my brother, my mom, my aunts and female cousins. I learned at an early age the value and worth of a woman. I am also very close to my mother. She’s my inspiration and my home base. To know that violence against women is not just an issue within our community but also a greater issue worldwide is something that should be acknowledged. There are women who still suffer in silence so it’s imperative we raise awareness regarding this issue.
How did you first get involved in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Toronto?
I first saw this event in the news and at first, I thought it was pretty cool that men were getting out of their comfort zone to wear heels in support of women. But the more I learned about White Ribbon and the organizations they work with to support women, I knew I wanted to be part of something important and worthwhile.
Why is Walk a Mile in Her Shoes important to you?
It’s important because although it is a fun event, it provides awareness in our community to talk about a difficult issue. I hope to be a role model for other men – including my colleagues, friends and family.
Any final thoughts?
I encourage everyone, men especially, to get out of your comfort zone and get involved in such a worthy cause. Also, a huge thank you to my friends and family for their overwhelming support and to my colleague Maria who let me borrow her heels.
Darius is participating in White Ribbon’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, presented by DSW Canada, The Shoe Company and Shoe Warehouse, taking place on Wednesday May 29, 2019 at 11:45am, David Pecaut Square, 215 King Street West, in Toronto. Donate to Darius’ participation at: whiteribbon.akaraisin.com/wamihs2019/dariusdiongco
Visit www.walkamiletoronto.ca to register, participate, and or donate. Thank you for your support of White Ribbon’s work to engage men and boys in promoting healthy masculinities and ending gender-based violence.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m Todd Karges and I’ve been participating in Walk A Mile since 2012. I’d been supporting friends walking for a few years prior to that and decided I wanted to be more involved. This year I started working out at Motus Training Studio, a gym whose mission and values include inclusivity and diversity. When I told my friends there about the walk, they were immediately interested in joining. That’s how Marco, Jamie, Ryan and I became the Swole Sisters. We’re excited to be able to make a difference.
Why is gender-based violence and violence against women an important issue for you to take action on?
Gender-based violence isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a human issue. The work that White Ribbon does to undo a twisted power imbalance that leads to violence against women is essential. We all know women who have been victimized, and that’s a great reason to participate. We also recognize that when this kind of crap stops, everybody will benefit and we’ll live in a better place.
Why is Walk a Mile in Her Shoes important to you and how did you first get involved?
I’ve been involved for almost a decade, and the rest of the Swole Sisters are enthusiastic newcomers to the cause. We all know that education and outreach are the most effective ways to change people, and that it’s a long process. The work that White Ribbon does is so important and we all knew we had to help however we could.
Tell us about your team and how how you got them to participate in the walk this year:
The Swole Sisters came together naturally, and it literally took no convincing. When my friends from Motus heard what the event was about, they immediately wanted to participate. White Ribbon’s mission aligns so perfectly with what we strive to bring to our gym experience. We all recognize our role in opening up cultures and changing people’s perspectives. I’d say the Swole Sisters already existed. We just needed a place to put this energy.
What are you looking forward to most about this year’s walk?
Every year, I approach the walk with a bit of apprehension. The shoes are not comfortable and a mile is a long way to go in them. And every year, I am lifted by the energy and enthusiasm of the event: participants, spectators, everybody. Mostly I’m looking forward to helping White Ribbon achieve their fundraising goal.
Todd Karges is participating in White Ribbon’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, presented by DSW Canada, The Shoe Company and Shoe Warehouse, taking place on Wednesday May 29, 2019 at 11:45am, David Pecaut Square, 215 King Street West, in Toronto. Donate to The Swole Sisters at: whiteribbon.akaraisin.com/wamihs2019/theswolesisters
Visit www.walkamiletoronto.ca to register, participate, and or donate. Thank you for your support of White Ribbon’s work to engage men and boys in promoting healthy masculinities and ending gender-based violence.
Dear Friends of White Ribbon,
As Spring gets underway, we are busy delivering programming, putting our heads together for innovation, launching two exciting new campaigns, Boys Don’t Cry and the Portal-Pathway, and getting ready to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes! Our community outreach and social media engagement have ramped up to bring about greater awareness and change in ending gender-based violence across Canada and beyond. We are thrilled to share the following White Ribbon updates with you.
Get to Know Our Change-Makers
Over the past six months, White Ribbon has been blown away by the passion and commitment of fifteen men who have become Peer Champions, while embracing their roles in preventing gender-based violence in the community. Thirty community-based events were organized by our Peers, from kitchen tables to organizations and social spaces.
Visit the campaign website to learn more about domestic violence and an exciting new BEST model for ally-ship. These efforts are a part of White Ribbon’s partnership with the Immigrant and Refugee, Neighbours, Friends and Families Campaign.
These resources help men and boys learn about domestic violence,
its root causes and what they can do to create a future without harm.
Promoting Male Allyship and Girls' Education in Kenya
We continue to work closely with our partners at the World University Services of Canada and local community organizations to engage men and boys in supporting girls’ access to education in two refugee camps in Kenya. We are inspired by the incredible resiliency and passion of the community to advance quality and equitable education for girls.
White Ribbon and Kenya Equity in Education Project Community Mobilizers
Prevention of Sexual Violence in our Schools
For nearly three decades, White Ribbon has been proud to work with elementary and secondary institutions across Ontario to promote gender equality and give students and educators the tools they need to prevent all forms of gender-based violence. We continue to see very high demand and interest in our new Draw the Line Educators’ Guides. Results from workshops with educators indicate that 94% of participants believe that they gained an increased understanding of the role they can play in preventing sexual violence.
Over the past three years, and with the support of the Ontario Government, we reached over 2.7 million students and educators in 1,850 elementary and secondary schools and distributed 1.4 million copies of campaign educational materials.
To date, White Ribbon has reached all Ontario post-secondary institutions with programming, resources, and training. We are immensely proud of this achievement, and continue to roll out workshops with student leaders, coaches, faculty and staff on ways to prevent sexual violence (on and off campus).
Changing Hearts and Minds
Our broad outreach and awareness-raising from White Ribbon workshops continue to see positive results. We are so grateful for the immense interest and support from diverse community members to unpack masculinities and gender-based violence prevention. This means getting participants to think about how gender stereotypes manifest in their own lives, encouraging critical thinking, and making links to sexual violence and harassment against women and girls. Our participants have told us that, after attending our workshops, 85% have a better understanding of healthy relationships, consent and gender-based violence prevention.
Much more work still needs to be done and we need your support!
Nipissing University students, athletes, staff, and faculty sign the White Ribbon pledge.
Boys Don’t Cry
"Boys will be boys." What does that even mean? It used to mean being brave, being strong, being tough. At White Ribbon, we know how important it is to let boys be so much more than that. Have you seen our powerful new PSA Boys Don’t Cry? This new campaign, launched at the end of February has already reached over 41 million people across Canada and beyond. We can all play a role in promoting healthy masculinities with young people around us, especially those of us who are dads, educators, coaches, and community leaders.
White Ribbon wants to spark a conversation about the importance of healthy masculinities, empathy,
and emotional intelligence in boys as tools to help end gender-based violence.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
Every year we are so humbled by the immense support and participation in our annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Event. This event presents a great opportunity for men to demonstrate their allyship with survivors and their commitment to end all forms of gender-based violence. Our 10th annual Walk a Mile is fast approaching on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, at David Pecaut Square in Toronto. For more information, visit walkamiletoronto.ca.
On behalf of our volunteer board and small dedicated staff team, thank you again for your support of White Ribbon. Your renewed financial support is deeply appreciated - to make a donation today click here. Your donation will go towards much needed youth-based programming exploring consent, healthy masculinity, and male allyship. Make your mark, and help us to expand our reach.If you are interested in exploring partnerships or collaboration opportunities, please contact us at [email protected].
Together we can prevent gender-based violence, and encourage more male-identified youth and adults to challenge their own biases and assumptions and work in solidarity with folks across the gender spectrum to create spaces of equity, support, authenticity and compassion.
Humberto Carolo Kate Bojin
Executive Director Director of Programs
Please sign the White Ribbon Pledge at www.whiteribbon.ca/pledge.
I walk because I remember. In 1991, I was in the eighth grade and we were all trying to make sense of the tragedy that took place at Ecole Polytechnique. Why did this man do this terrible thing? Why did he target women? We all felt so helpless but decided to participate in a walk downtown wearing our white ribbons on a cold fall day. We wanted to show that we stood in solidarity on the important issue regarding zero tolerance for violence against women. Fast forward to today and we are still fighting for women’s equality and teaching our boys about healthy relationships and respect.
My son and I have had countless conversations about why I walk each year, why I raise money, and what it means to be a champion for this very important cause. Like me, he felt compelled to do something meaningful and asked if he could join the walk this year. While it will be a school day for him, I feel it’s appropriate to take him out for an afternoon for this very teachable moment. As we walk, we will continue our dialogue so that he can pay it forward and have these conversations with his male peers at school. Education is so important and the work the White Ribbon does each day is invaluable.
Thanks to all who have supported me on this walk and donated so generously. Dev and I will be asking for money again. The need still exists, and we must do something, keep walking and continue our efforts.
Sign up to participate in or donate to the 10th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Toronto at: www.walkamiletoronto.ca
Donate to Nirav's page: whiteribbon.akaraisin.com/wamihs2019/niravpatel
With the recent tragic events at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, there is an opportunity to shed light on male violence, its impacts, root causes and solutions. As of today, Toronto Police continue to investigate eight incidents at St. Michael’s, including alleged sexual assaults, assaults, and threats. The community continues to respond with an over-pouring of support, care, and concern. The School and the community have committed to a process of inquiry and culture change.
In late November, representatives from White Ribbon and St. Michael’s College met to discuss an overall approach and action plan to promote healthy masculinities and culture change at the school. This resulted in a partnership agreement between both organizations. Over the coming months, White Ribbon will be supporting St. Michael’s College School to promote healthy masculinities and spur transformational culture change. This will include immediate staff training, student education and engagement, and a school culture assessment. We will engage diverse stakeholders including students, staff, parents and alumni, to explore gaps, needs and opportunities to enhance St. Michael’s culture - ensuring everyone feels safe, respected, included, and valued. Findings from the School Culture Assessment will be foundational to the St. Michael’s Healthy Masculinities and Culture Change Strategy. We look forward to working with the St. Michael’s community and supporting the school’s journey ahead.
About White Ribbon
White Ribbon is a community-based organization created in 1991, two years after the 1989 Montreal Massacre. We work to examine the root causes of gender-based violence and to create a cultural shift that helps bring us to a future without violence. Our vision is for masculinities that embody the best qualities of being human. We believe that men and boys are part of the solution and part of a future that is safe and equitable for women and all people.
About St. Michael’s College School
St. Michael’s College School is Canada's only Catholic, Basilian, faith-based independent school, educating young men from Grades 7 to 12 in a university-preparatory programme. Founded in 1852, the school provides education in liberal arts, arts, athletics, and faith development. Please visit www.stmichaelscollegeschool.com for more information.
How Ontario Schools can Draw-the-Line to End Sexual Violence
Last year in Arianna Lambert’s grade 4/5 classroom, it started with a conversation about hugs. “We talked about why you should ask someone ahead of time,” she recounts. “It got them to think about how we actually impact the way people feel around us by going too close.”
Age-appropriate conversations like this one are taking place in many Ontario classrooms. They represent important stepping stones for building a culture of consent. Or, in other words, a culture where it’s recognized that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs—whether we’re talking about a hug, sexual activity, or anything else—and asking for consent is normalized and promoted.
White Ribbon--the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls—understands that bringing discussions about consent and healthy relationships into classrooms is key to stamping out the attitudes and behaviours that fuel sexual violence. What’s more, it’s not enough to create a culture where, as individuals, we don’t commit or condone sexual violence. To solve this pervasive problem, we all need to learn to be active bystanders: safely and effectively intervening when we see sexual violence taking place. That’s where Drawing the Line on Sexual Violence—A Guide for Ontario Educators can help.
Schools are in a unique position to help end sexual violence.
One in three Canadian women will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime—with young women being especially at risk. Female youth aged 12 to 17 are eight times more likely than male youth to be victims of sexual assault or another type of sexual offence. Meanwhile, Indigenous girls, LGBTQ youth and women and girls with disabilities run even higher risks of being sexually assaulted.
With unparalleled access to young people from all walks of life, teachers have a key role to play in helping students learn how to recognize and respond to sexual violence. That said, as a subject, sexual violence and consent can be intimidating to broach.
“When I first heard about the topic, I was a little bit apprehensive,” says Sean Lambert, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board and a contributing writer of the guide. “But once I got together with the team and knew the support we would have from White Ribbon, I understood it was good work.”
Draw-the-Line brings discussions about sexual violence out into the open.
Draw-the-Line is a bystander education campaign created by the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres and Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes, who later partnered with White Ribbon. The campaign provokes discussions about sexual violence in our communities and provides strategies bystanders can use to intervene safely and effectively.
In 2016, White Ribbon saw the need for school-based resources on the same topic and, working alongside Ontario educators, developed tools to help teachers foster the next generation’s ability to navigate healthy relationships, understand consent and prevent sexual violence. Since then, more than 5000 copies of the guide (which is available in both French and English) have been distributed.
The resource helps students prepare for real-life situations.
Students discuss how they might react to the situation as teachers walk them through lesson plans that draw on expectations from the Ontario curriculum. “It becomes much more personal than a resource that might say ‘here are three tips…’” says Arianna.
According to Grace Guillaume, a first-year student at the University of Guelph who has volunteered with White Ribbon, it’s also a great way to practise for the unexpected. “When you encounter a situation in which you want to intervene, it often catches you off guard,” she explains. “You second guess yourself. But when you have these different examples of possible scenarios, you think of what you would do and should do. Then, when you encounter a real situation, there’s less processing. You can identify it more easily, and even though there’s not one exact right way to approach it, you already have an idea of what you can do.”
“I like the fact that there are also stories and links to videos about topics like cyberbullying,” adds Arianna. “It helps students understand those situations in ways that are relevant to their own lives.”
The resource can support more than just classroom discussions.
Some schools and students have used the campaign in creative ways. “Last year we created a show called My Being,” says Emily Guitar, a grade 12 student at the Etobicoke School of the Arts. “It’s an interdisciplinary show where we talk about rape culture, especially related to youth. We had 50 performers and 20 visual artists involved.”
The student-led group framed their show around the Draw-the-Line resources. They put on two performances for a total of 400 audience members, and students are planning a similar show for this year. “Last year we talked about the overall community aspect. This year, we plan to talk about how we can work to diminish sexual violence without justifying the actions of the perpetrators,” explains Emily.
Arianna can also see potential in taking the messages of the Draw-the-Line resource outside the classroom. “I think that (school-based) clubs could be a really effective way to do this,” she says. “It could allow for a broader conversation in a school that doesn’t necessarily have teacher buy-in.”
Male allies are key.
The resource guides also contain a section on engaging male bystanders—something that’s central to White Ribbon’s vision for ending sexual violence. Until recently, education initiatives have largely focused on how women can protect themselves, rather than on how men can be part of the solution.
“Throughout history people have made sexual violence a women’s issue,” says Grace. “It creates an environment where men aren’t reviewing their actions or their reactions to sexual violence.”
“I think it makes a huge difference when men and boys get involved,” comments Emily. She explains that when they do, it no longer feels like just a woman’s issue, but an issue that concerns all of us.
And when all genders become part of the solution, we all benefit. Safer communities and healthier relationships are just the start. When men and boys become allies to end sexual violence, they can also gain a healthier, non-violent sense of self—something which can lead to an increased ability to identify and express emotions, a decrease in risk-taking behaviours and even improved mental health.
How can you start a conversation at your school?
“Prior to writing the resource, I didn’t feel I had the expertise. I wouldn’t have known where to start,” Sean admits. “Teachers need good resources and a lot of good information.”
Although the current iteration of White Ribbon’s Draw-the-Line campaign in Elementary and Secondary Schools is coming to a close, the Drawing the Line on Sexual Violence guides are available for free download from the White Ribbon website. Furthermore, e-modules to support educators in the use of the guides are coming this month. White Ribbon continues to offer workshops for educators and students.
It’s also important to remember that, with the right support, any educator can tackle the material. “My mistake was thinking, I don’t teach health,” says Arianna. “All teachers could use these activities. They don’t necessarily have to happen in health class.”
Most importantly, keep in mind that by reaching out for information and support you can increase your comfort level with the subject. That, in turn, will help students to feel more at ease. “As a teacher my job is to make sure everyone is comfortable having these discussions,” says Sean. “If I can do that, it becomes less taboo.”
And when a topic like sexual violence loses its taboo, empathy for victims increases, people begin to take more responsibility for their actions and reactions, and big changes can be set in motion. “Just being presented with opportunities to have discussions around this is going to change lives, save lives, and make a change in our society,” Sean concludes.