Calgary organization takes a stand against sexual violence, educates youth

A Calgary woman has created a workshop and peer-support organization for survivors of sexual violence, and is using her own story of survival to help others.

For the past three years, Erin Brassard has been taking her workshop to junior and senior high schools in the Calgary area, with the latest appearance at Holy Cross Collegiate in Strathmore this week.

She says she is teaching students something that’s not included in their textbooks by defining sexual assault, rape culture and informed consent.

“In order to change, we need to start talking about it and we need to start teaching our youth,” said Brassard, founder of S.T.A.N.D. Against Sexual Assault.

She survived several sexual assaults between age 17 and 24, and she begins each classroom session by sharing her story.

“I don’t sugarcoat my story. It’s very raw and real and I think its important for them to hear a full story and understand how serious it is, that it can happen to anyone,” said Brassard.

She also says sexual assault happens too often.

One out of three girls and one out of six boys will experience sexual violence by the time they reach age 16.

In adulthood, Brassard says two out of every three women in Alberta will experience sexual assault.

Brassard says young people want to take this seriously.

Last November, students from Western Canada High School walked out of class, saying they are protesting inaction from administration to address sexual assault allegations.

Brassard hopes to bring her workshop to the school.

Students at Holy Cross Collegiate tell CTV News the workshop from S.T.A.N.D. made them aware of how sexual aggression can be normalized in media.

“I didn’t realize how common it was until the presentation came in and showed how much it is in our movies and just day to day lives, event at school, everywhere,” said Grade 10 student Nicholas Szasz.

Nathan Molney says he learned tools for future relationships including, “communication, consent and knowing when people are ready.”

Another student says she’s learned more about the prevalence of sexual violence and why it should never occur.

“It is something that is not okay and we don’t get taught about it in school,” said Grade 11 student Taylor Stimson.

Brassard says her workshops often connects a young person who may be in the midst of a trauma with the support they need.

“This is not your fault. It’s not okay. It never should have happened.”

S.T.A.N.D. also provides up to 18 weekly support sessions for young people who reach out to her group anonymously. More information can be found here.

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