Members of the Committee for Action Against Sexual Violence Dave Belleau (left), Eva Navrot, Rhonda Surette, Ky Rogan, Bel Hume, Joan Gentles, and Joan Sorley promoting the upcoming conference. Paige Mueller photo

Breaking the silence on sexual violence

Committee for Action Against Sexual Violence to hold two day, Breaking the Silence conference Nov 3-4.

Coming on the heels of a vigil and walk hosted in Williams Lake on Friday to honour women affected by violence, is a two day conference next month, Breaking the Silence, to support survivors of sexual assault and harassment and to bring education and awareness to a topic that so often goes unreported.

“Our goal is for individuals to share their stories and then have some input from speakers who are experts in the field of sexual violence,” said Eva Navrot, project coordinator at the Williams Lake Women’s Contact Society. “On Saturday, we come up with an action plan for our community.”

And it’s because of countless stories of abuse from people within the community that the need for this project was realized. Bel Hume told the Tribune that after talking with members of her family and realizing that three people in her family had been molested she felt she needed to do something to stop it and “to help other women and other boys and girls survive this and have the healing and actually have some resources.”

Hume said she started talking with people in the community who worked in mental health about her desire to make a change and stop sexual violence and they said “yeah, let’s do it.”

The conference will take place amidst an internet firestorm of #metoo posts on social media where women use the hashtag to come forward and share their stories in hopes of bringing to light the magnitude of sexual violence, harassment and abuse. The “Me Too” campaign was created by activist Tarana Burke ten years ago and was recently turned into an hashtag by actress Alyssa Milano.

“I posted umpteen times that I was either assaulted or harassed and probably every woman has the same story and lots of men too,” said Joan Sorley about the campaign. “It doesn’t stop and that’s why I felt I had to come forward with my story, because I can. A lot of survivors can’t.”

A panel of six speakers, including Sorley will speak on Friday, Nov. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. about why it’s important to break the silence, what happened to them when they did share their stories and what to expect afterwards. It’s an important step to breaking the stigma around sexual violence, Sorley said.

That stigma exists for men as well as women, adds Joan Gentles, another notable speaker on the panel.

“We started off just women coming to the meeting and we decided that we needed to include men because the same thing is happening to men as well,” she said.

Dave Belleau was the only man in attendance at the planning meeting last Monday and told the Tribune, “the men where I come from and my age silently kept this secret for over 63 years.” Belleau attends the Committee for Action Against Sexual Violence regularly and agreed to tell his story as a speaker on the conference panel.

“Unfortunately it happens. That’s why I’m here. Because somebody needs to say something.”

Standing up and saying something can be difficult however, and the organizers of the conference recognize this. While Friday’s section of the conference encourages sharing between community members, Saturday morning will see talks by two experts in the subject of sexual violence. There will also be a counsellor on site to help attendees with any overwhelming emotions they may be feeling.

Tracey Porteous is the executive director of the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, an organization dedicated to providing support to anti-violence programs across the province and will speak on Nov 4. Her session will be followed by a talk by Dr. Jacqueline Holler, an associate professor in the Department of History, Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia.

One of the most important parts of the Breaking the Silence conference will be Saturday afternoon where attendees will come up with an action plan for the community of Williams Lake to address sexual violence.

“I’m hoping this is a stepping stone for other communities to say, ‘They did that in Williams Lake, I think we can do that in our community’,” said Hume about the afternoon strategy session. Helping to come up with a ‘what’s next’ plan won’t just protect and help current survivors but may even help prevent future assaults, she said.

“We’re not just taking back our power, but damn it, we’re going to figure out how to get this prevented so that our kids and grandkids are safe,” said Sorley.

The conference will take place at Thompson Rivers University on November 3-4. Those interested can register through the Women’s Contact Society.

Just Posted

Williams Lake Slo-Pitch League geared up for year-end tournament

“It’s been a great year and we’re looking forward to this weekend,” Barbondy said.

Delay powers way to berth at strongman nationals

Delay finished in the top four in his weight division in Richmond at the provincial championships

Joe Borsato leaves the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin

Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin coordinator Joe Borsato bid farewell to his position at the museum

SD27 hires new finance manager

Barrett Gaunce is presently corporate controller for Northwest Territories Housing Corp. in Yellowknife

Second Rudy Johnson Bridge suspect in custody: RCMP

Michael Drynock is accused of kidnapping and attempted murder

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Most Read