In May a group of passionate community members and VSAC staff squished in to my little Fernwood living room to begin the journey of developing a curriculum for a 20 hour training on root causes of sexualized violence for new SART and office volunteers, board members, and staff. With an agenda carefully laid out but quickly left in the dust, it was clear that we had assembled a team of individuals who were seeking to participate in the development of a curriculum that would encompass intersectional identities, frameworks on colonialism, self-reflection as a tool of engagement, and trauma-informed perspectives through themes of resistance, consent, and self-determination all in new and revolutionary ways.
My personal introduction to anti-oppression and social justice was through a similar training at another sexual assault centre. This is where I met others who had lived experiences of violence and abuse. I learned the language to describe the stirring emotions inside of myself. I was shown tools that could be used to address and understand the violence I witnessed around me on a daily basis, and learned that I was surrounded by friends who would join me in repairing and rebuilding the world we all live in. It was here that I understood how power that comes through learning spreads well beyond what is discussed over the course of a 20 or 40 hour training. The experience of partaking in such a training gets to the core of who we are as individuals and what hopes and dreams we hold for the communities we live in.
On October 8th we finished our first “Core Training,” which will now become a standard introductory training for any new volunteers and staff joining VSAC. Over 4 months of community consultations with a dedicated and generous group of community members, what came together was a curriculum that was certainly different from any training or workshop that I had either participated in or facilitated. Rather than discussing large systemic oppression and then narrowing our conversations down to individuals we asked participants to begin with self-reflective practices of examining their own experiences and identities and relate these understandings to structural and systemic violence.The many different voices and perspectives shared throughout this training allowed us all the opportunity to (re)shape our understandings of violence and trauma. It was truly an honor to witness the passion and care with which many participants, who came with varying knowledge of sexualized violence, pushed themselves and each other to dig deep and to open up to new ways of framing causes of violence and oppression.
As is usual with trainings such as these, the true impact trickles far beyond the room we all shared. The relationships and perhaps even budding friendships that formed between participants became increasingly apparent by the end of the 20 hours. My hope is that these relationships become vehicles through which people can share, grow, and engage in the work that fuels their interests with friends by their sides. From here, many participants are continuing on with a longer training to become SART volunteers (as a peripheral anecdote, a couple of SART volunteers I was speaking with at our recent Annual General Meeting floored me when they expressed their jealousy that newest SART volunteers would get 70 hours of training instead of 50! The dedication of our volunteers never ceases to amaze and inspire me). For staff this training is log on our fire as we engage in more conversations about colonialism.
An absolute highlight of the training was having guest speaker Chaw-win-is join us to share her knowledges of resiliency and agency in indigenous communities. She framed the importance of providing support that puts power and agency in to the hands of those seeking support, particularly for indigenous people, with passion and love. Her words provided food for thought that I will definitely be munching on for many months to come and that certainly introduced many of the conversations SART volunteers will be having over the next few months in a truly engaging way. It is always exciting to see the ways in which discussions and conversations can become embodied, (re)shaping the ways in which we experience and understand where violence comes from and how to address it.
Though this round of Core Training has finished, the learning never ends (good news for those eager SART volunteers!). Next will be reviewing and evaluating this training. Already we have gotten feedback and had conversations that I believe will bring us closer to the powerful vision drawn out by and through our community consultation process. In the mean time, I for one look forward to diving in to some of the resources compiled on this list!