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North Van’s Sexual Assault Response Program campaigns for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Family Services of the North Shore’s (FSNS’s) Sexual Assault Response Program (SARP) kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) on April 6 with a “Teal Tuesday” event for all staff.

Everyone was encouraged to wear teal-coloured clothing or pin on a teal ribbon and come to learn more about their Sexual Assault Response Program (SARP). Thanks to a return of emergency sexual assault funds for just over 50 programs like this across BC, administered by EVA BC, since June of last year, the SARP is providing support to anyone 13 years or older living on the North Shore, Bowen Island or Lions Bay, 24 hours a day. More funding was announced this year that will continue to support this essential service.

About 25 people came to learn—and play—getting creative by writing hopeful messages to survivors of sexual assault, painting them on squares of denim.

Hannah Kochuk, the program’s coordinator and a support worker with the SARP explained, “We chose to use denim to refer to the 1998 Italian Supreme Court ruling which created the ‘jeans alibi.‘”

Although that decision was overturned in 2008, denim continues to be used as an example that the clothing people wear does not equal consent.

“The final art piece is now hanging in one of our counselling rooms,” Kochuk said.

At the Teal Tuesday event and for the entire Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the team worked to raise awareness about the lack of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) on the local Lions Gate Hospital staff.

…the team worked to raise awareness about the lack of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) on the local Lions Gate Hospital staff.

“It is shocking that much of the North Shore community didn’t know about this,” said Kochuk. “All those who we spoke to are concerned and feel it is a loss of an essential service.” She asked anyone she spoke with to share the information to increase community awareness. “As someone who works in the anti-violence sector, I am working with other North Shore community members to address this lack of service by engaging with the community and our local politicians.”

This was the first time FSNS held an event in honour of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “Next year, I would love to engage more with our schools, potentially creating another piece of art to display,” said Kochuk. “I would also love to see movement on providing SANE services to the North Shore community.”

This April was also EVA BC’s first province-wide campaign for SAAM where we asked community leaders across the province to sign a pledge to commit to “be a champion” for their communities by helping to improve response to and prevention of sexual assault. For next year, Hannah and others would like to see the campaign reach even more people and tell more of the stories of the survivors and workers that reflect the range and scope of the many centres across the province. Stay tuned!