by: Ashley Quinton
News and Politics Writer
Emotion filled the room as women and men took to the stage to tell their stories of sexual assault at the University of Windsor’s #MeToo event this week.
It’s important to let our emotions out, says Dr. Frankie Cachon, a Women and Gender Studies professor who teaches courses about sexual violence prevention. Without emotional release we do a “disservice to us as human beings,” says Cachon, “so we wanted to create a space in poetry and music where we are very aware of that connection.”
Cachon describes sexual assault as a public health crisis and contends events such as #MeToo expands the conversation about it. Shelby Lacy organized #MeToo UWindsor as a kind of support system where “we wanted to build on the #MeToo movement and really just create a space where people could come and celebrate their courage, bravery and resilience in regards to sexual violence and also just have the opportunity to take care of each other.”
Barb Hutchins, a UWindsor Digital Journalism student and survivor of childhood abuse and rape admits she was a little naive prior to coming to the event, “I was really excited about coming but I didn’t expect the emotional response I had being here. To hear the other voices to know it’s a safe space to express your emotions and suddenly I felt very vulnerable but I felt very safe and that’s not a feeling survivors have very often.”
Hutchins was raped when she was 9-years old by a family friend. When she was 16-years old it happened again by “someone I should have been able to trust. Someone of authority,” she says.
Hutchins took the stage when Lacy asked if anyone else wanted to speak on the open mic. She encouraged the survivors in the room to continue to be strong and reminded them it doesn’t matter how long it has been since an assault, they still deserve to be heard.
She described how she saw her rapist for the first time in 30 years. “I walked into the grocery store and I saw him. I had one of two choices: run away or walk up to him and make him feel uncomfortable.” She chose the latter. She said she broke down after but realized, “we are stronger than them.”
Cachon notes, “the visibility around sexual violence and so many people coming forward we know sexual violence is highly stigmatized so people have a lot of self-blame and there is a lot of shame and people don’t talk about their experiences which can be very isolating. So, we wanted to create a space where people can connect and share their experiences it lessens the stigma and lessens the isolation.”
Cachon is a professor in the offered Bystander Initiative courses, which aims at promoting awareness and creating campus-wide prevention of sexual violence. Its ultimate objective is to change the culture around sexual violence on campus. “Many people fail to identify problematic situations and they don’t act so in the bystander course we build capacity to understand what is rape culture, what is hyper-masculinity and how are they correlated and build capacity for students to intervene to prevent sexual assault from happening.”
Lacey was impressed with turnout, “I definitely see more movement and more talk. People are going to leave here feeling inspired and that they are able to do big things.”
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