Learning is Healing: The Saskatchewan Sexual Violence Education Initiative
The purpose of the Saskatchewan Sexual Violence Education (SSVE) initiative is to examine existing sexual violence educational programming, determine where the gaps are, and then develop a sexual violence education program that reflects the needs of communities within the province through a trauma-informed, intersectional and culturally responsive lens.
The community research report titled, Learning is Healing, highlights the key findings that were discovered in conversations about sexual violence education with communities across the province.
Below is an interview with our Education Project Lead, Somiya Tabassum about SSVE leading up to the launch of the community report on Tuesday, January 24.
What is the story behind the Saskatchewan Sexual Violence Education Intiative (SSVE)?
SSVE was created in response to the research findings from SASS’ previous research on Sexual Violence in Saskatchewan. The findings revealed that there were a lot of barriers and gaps in sexual violence education. Many of the survivors who shared their experiences for the research spoke to the lack of services, resources, and education that were available to them. One of the most significant issues regarding the educational programming that exists is that it is not specific to the province nor reflects the unique demographics of the individuals who live here, especially in rural and remote communities.
What is the meaning behind the title of the community report, Learning is Healing?
The title was the inspiration of Marie Lovrod. When talking about healing, we often examine what constitutes healing for someone who has experienced trauma and look at the different modalities that support a person’s healing journey. Through our research, we wanted to identify guidelines for best practices when developing and delivering sexual violence education.
We want sexual violence education to be a modality for healing and be an experience for the learner that does not cause more harm but rather provides support for their healing journey. Education can be reparative if the content developed is reflective of the community needs in which it is being delivered.
The report also speaks to education as a protective mechanism rather than a barrier. There has been educational programming created in the province but it excludes parts of our population and was not created with their experiences or needs in mind so it is not accessible or relatable. These are barriers. SSVE exists to turn educational barriers into protective mechanisms by creating programming that is trauma-informed, culturally-appropriate and inclusive.
The community report speaks to the importance of Reparative Education, can you explain what that means?
During the research process we examined existing education programs to see what works and what doesn’t. The main theme that emerged was that the education programs that exist are one size fits all meaning they are made for the masses and delivered continuously to different groups without taking into account the specific needs of the community and individuals living within that community.
Reparative Education is the process of repairing the gaps that already exist by going into communities and consulting with them first to understand their needs and then to develop education content and programming that is tailored specifically for the needs identified.
When you were listening to the stories that became the findings for the report, what did you find most interesting?
Traveling to various communities across Saskatchewan for the research put into perspective how much we don’t include when we talk about Saskatchewan. How much of the story about our province is missing. You really get to see that when you travel to different parts of the province, especially in Northern communities.
At SASS, as a team, we’ve talked about the way that Saskatchewan’s landscape is commonly defined (flat prairie lands and farming) and how that excludes the rich diversity of the province like the Northern boreal forests. In the way we define Saskatchewan, we exclude certain regions and the populations that make up a significant part of our province. This reflects unique service and education needs that aren’t being included.
Another thing that really resonated with me was a comment made by a focus group participant, (paraphrasing) she said, “When it comes to sexual violence education, we need to start thinking about it with the mindset that we (as service providers, and educators) are here with you (survivors) in this journey. There is no forcing or coercion. That’s the goal when it comes to service provision and education. We respond to what the survivor needs and then help them find a way to meet their needs. In the context of education, coercion is creating one thing and forcing it on a community.”
How does the community report serve as a guide for what’s next in the SSVE process?
We found that community connection and inviting community voices in to be a part of the education development process are important. I call this “Centering the Margins” which means bringing the voices and experiences of marginalized communities into the center of educational development and delivery. It is our hope that the educational programming we develop becomes a best practice both provincially and nationally and we encourage individuals, organizations, governments to adopt it as part of their own practices too.
We’d like to express gratitude for our incredible partners on this project, The Community-Institute for Social Research and The Federations of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and to our funders for making this initiative possible, Women and Gender Equality of Canada, Justice Canada, and South Sask Community Foundation.