Sexual violence awareness week kicks off

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Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Volunteer Sarah Hogan helps to hold up the “Community Clothesline” in front of the Confederation Building in St. John’s Monday. The display was aimed at raising awareness of sexual violence in Newfoundland and Labrador and was part of Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2011. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

In its 12th year, Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2011 kicked off Monday with municipal proclamations and a “Community Clothesline” event. The week of awareness events is organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre (NLSACPC).

A display in front of the Confederation Building, the “Community Clothesline” had volunteers holding up a long line filled with

T-shirts. The T-shirts had painted messages from men, women and children who have experienced sexual violence, as well as people who support them.

“These T-shirts come from all over the province, some even from outside the province,” said NLSACPC co-ordinator Barbara Wadman. “The messages range. Some are very positive and uplifting. Some are a bit heartbreaking.”

“Living in fear is not living at all,” reads one. “No more secrets,” reads another.

Sarah Hogan has been volunteering at the centre and was helping to hold the line in the windy weather. Why?

“Social justice, actually,” she said. She said she plans to go to law school in the future for the same reason. “This speaks volumes with what I want to work with — with women who can’t come forward, who feel they can’t come forward.”

Premier attends

“(Sexual violence) is the dark side of our society that people don’t want to talk about, but is the reality … and it’s important that it be brought into the open,” said Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who stepped out to take a closer look at the display.

In the latest provincial budget, an additional $10,000 in financial support was provided to the NLSACPC to encourage the centre to expand its programming outside of St. John’s and surrounding areas. The premier also pointed to the millions of dollars put into the provincial violence prevention initiative.

More needed

Taking a turn holding up the line, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said the budget and the violence prevention initiative have not gone far enough in providing supports outside of St. John’s.

“I really do think government needs to put more money into shelters, for example, and more programs to really name the violence more directly,” she said.

“If you’re in St. John’s you have a chance, but in rural Newfoundland and Labrador women who are living in violence really have very, very few supports.”

Full effort

As for existing funding for the NLSACPC, Wadman said the centre does what it can. Its

24-hour hotline (1-800-726-2743) reaches rural areas.

“(Now) we’ve got an additional $10,000 to work with and our goal is to put that specifically towards education and prevention programs, with a particular emphasis on Labrador. The most rural regions are kind of where we want to target for now,” she said. “We certainly have hopes and goals to be able to broaden that even more.”

A full schedule for Sexual Violence Awareness Week is available on The Telegram website and on Facebook at www.facebook.com

/End SV.

The events will culminate at 7 p.m. Friday at Bannerman Park, with the start of the 27th annual St. John’s Take Back the Night March.

NDP MP Ryan Cleary, also at the clothesline Monday, said the start of a main event of the NDP’s upcoming Atlantic caucus meeting is being held back a few hours, to allow members to participate in events around the march.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis, Confederation Building, The Telegram NDP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Bannerman Park

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