I have worked at the Sexual Assault Centre here in Brantford for over nine years. What drew me to the Centre was their emphasis on social justice work. They understood that sexual violence did not happen within an isolated context of two individuals, but that it was impacted, informed and shaped by social structures and social issues. The intersections of different systems in society impact a survivor’s ability to heal and recover from their experience(s) of sexual violence. Worrying about rent or whether there is enough food to feed your children severely impairs your ability to give energy to your healing process. Our Centre’s work in the community as a result is very diverse. We find ourselves involved in antipoverty initiatives, anti-racist projects, and other social justice based work.
As the Centre’s community worker, I spend a lot of time working on anti-sexual violence work with client populations of other agencies, and in schools right from preschool to post secondary. When I was researching training tools to use in my program I found that most focused on the victim or the perpetrator. In addition the focus was reactionary and within a framework of identifying negative behaviour and naming ways to recover from that behaviour. The programs for younger children were focused on concepts of good touch/bad touch and stranger danger. While all these approaches have their strong points, I found them lacking for my purposes. In response, I applied for funding to the Ontario Trillium Foundation to create my own program that focused on human rights and emotional literacy. I was successful and I started last year on Taylor the Turtle.
My sister and my dad came up with the concept, art, and design of Taylor, and have helped me with the layout of materials. This has been a great project in terms of getting my friends and family involved with my work since almost everyone I know has edited a piece of the project. I wanted as many different eyes on this as possible. This consulting process of going outside the social service field, I believe, has made Taylor a stronger project.
So why a turtle??
A turtle offers a wonderful concrete example of self-care and safety planning quite simply by nature; they have that beautiful shell. I also chose a turtle to honour the territory in which we are doing our community work. In addition, their cuteness lends itself quite nicely to cartoon form.
Knowing and naming our rights, our bodies, our feelings, and our own safety people, are the key concepts in the program. Taylor wants children to know that they have the right to: a safe body, a healthy body, a safe school, a safe community, talk to someone when they do not feel safe.
We spend a lot of time talking about how our bodies feel with certain feelings, that we are all different, and that everyone has different safety people.
This is a community project. Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services have been a strong consultant in the creation of Taylor. They will be leading the project in Six Nations. The Brantford Police, Grand Erie District School Board, St Leonard’s, Woodview Children’s Mental Health and Autism Services, Nova Vita, and Victim Services composed the consulting committee, and they will continue to support the project in their therapeutic programs as well. Andy Johnston, Henry Hammond and Carley Gallant – all students from Assumption College created an amazing two-minute animation of Taylor the Turtle that will be used in the presentations.
In my almost two decades of anti-violence work, what I discover time after time is that it is only through community collaboration that we can create change. That is how community work should be: we cannot have only an individualized response, but rather, we need a concerted effort from the community. This is a community issue; not a woman’s issue. Not a ‘they made a bad choice’ issue. This is an issue that the community needs to come together around and realize that a life free of sexual violence is a human right, and together we must work to ensure that right is realized for everyone.
To learn more about Taylor please visit: www.taylorsrights.ca