Humber marches, united against sexual violence

Students, staff and faculty marched against sexual and gender-based violence on Thursday evening, accompanied by a drummer and led by an organizer with a megaphone as the group, dozens strong, circled Humber College’s North Campus.

“Stop the violence, no more silence. Humber fights back,” is just one of the chants that over 40 students made as they rallied, led by Nichole White, a student conduct assistant. Marchers held signs that read “no means no” and “you are not alone”, among others.

Nichole White leads the march around campus.

Event organizers stated that one in three women will experience sexual or gender based violence during their lifetime, but Humber marched in the fourth annual Take Back The Night as part of a movement to change that statistic.

Consent Peer Educators, a campus group previously called “consent is sexy”, hosted the event, as they have in previous years.

Ahead of the march itself, attendees were invited inside the newly built Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation, where students could explore booths set up by allies of those who have experienced sexual violence and organizations that provide related services.

The Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services of Halton, known simply as SAVIS, works with Humber College sports teams on building awareness for sexual violence, its representatives said.

Also present was the Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women, Youth Without Shelter, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, Humber Security and the Peel Regional Police Service.

After opening remarks and a land acknowledgement, Humber College Vice President Jason Hunter gave his support to the movement and remarked on the history of women rights and its impact on his daughters, thanking the marchers for their efforts.

Jason Hunter gave his support to Take Back The Night.

“I want to thank you for doing all that you can and all you’re doing not only to take back the night, but to give the back night to those who don’t even know that it has been lost,” Hunter, who serves as the vice president for students and institutional planning, said.

“I stand with you.”

Speeches were followed by performances.

The first performer was a musician that only goes by Saffron A. who graduated in the spring from the University of Guelph-Humber. With an electric guitar in hand, Saffron melded an indie song with lyrics that spoke of their experiences with sexual violence and gender discrimination.

She was followed by a dance troupe. Their instructor, Bryanna Persuad, is also a Guelph-Humber alumni, who said that they found two of their young, teenage members had experienced sexual violence and another pair had been targeted by gender-based discrimination.

Seven female dancers gave two emotionally charged dances, split into a group of five and a pair.

(L) Jaida Ponce, (M) Liz Osawamick, (R) Tonya-Leah Watts

The third performance came in the form of two traditional Indigenous songs, one with origins in the Kingston Women’s Penitentiary and the other was Anishanbwe in origin.

Marchers then took to the outside, drawing attention from across campus as they made their way across the front of the Learning Resource Commons, around the southern tip of campus and back up by the residence buildings before entering the LRC and concluding the march.

IGNITE President Monica Khosla and Vice President Megan Roopnarine were both present during the march on behalf of the student union.

Artist with a message

Saffron A. is a survivor. She experienced sexual assault in the summer before her fourth year, in 2018. To process her emotions, she turned to an art form she has always found familiar, music.

Saffron A performs at the Barrett Centre on Sept. 26, 2019.

“My mom was conducting while I was in utero and doing pitch matching exercises with me as an infant,” Saffron replied when asked about when she acquired a taste for music. She went to her parents’ band practices and got involved in choir.

When she turned 16, Saffron started to perform live. But it was not until the young artist hit university that she learned to write, she told The Avro Post.

After she was sexually assaulted, Saffron wrote Resilience, a song that captured her experience with the violence. In September of 2018, she performed the track and soon realized the impact that it had on her audience.

“So, I wrote a whole concept record about my personal experience with the emotional aftermath of sexual assault and, as I started performing, I started hearing more stories and connecting with more people,” she explained.

This lead her to write more records with different lenses. Now, she tours and hopes to make music and supporting survivors her full time job.

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