Cultures like mine have a lot of taboo around talking about sexual violence and consent.
In my experience, conversations around sexual violence (if any at all) have always been limited to private settings. Even just getting used to talking about it was difficult. In a way, it was almost a culture shock to learn how unacceptable sexual violence was here—compared to my home country.
As I learned more about consent culture, I was concerned about being judged by my peers about my evolving understanding of sexual violence and consent. I hadn’t really given it a lot of thought before, because it was so normalized in my culture—I had to accept it, to a degree.
As I engaged with the topic more, I would ask myself again and again if I felt comfortable reaching out for help if I needed it. It was a new way of thinking—one I hadn't considered before.
A turning point
By continuing to make an effort to learn about the subject, I've been able to take advantage of events and resources like Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO).
I had to have an open mind, and it helped me get past my old way of thinking. I now know that sexual violence and assault awareness isn’t just a conversation for survivors.
We’re all responsible for creating a safe environment and that includes being open to discussions on topics of sexual assault and consent. It's especially crucial for our friends, colleagues, or even family members who are coming from places where talking about those subjects is still heavily stigmatized.
Like me, you may be coming from a different culture that has different cultural norms—but you are still part of creating consent culture on campus.
You may have to start from the beginning and get comfortable with learning about sexual assault prevention and consent in the first place—just like I have over the past few years. Now, I’m more knowledgeable and prepared to talk about it when I see it happening in my community.
As international students, we may have different levels of understanding, but we all play a part in creating a culture of consent at UBC. It is important that domestic students understand these cultural differences so that we can support each other in standing against sexual violence on campus.
January is Sexual Assault Awareness Month at UBC, and I encourage you to get involved. Start by attending an event and learn about the topic, whether it’s brand new for you or not.
Each of us can do one small thing to contribute to a safe UBC campus, whether it’s believing survivors or keeping the conversation going—even when it’s difficult.
Header photo credits: Paul H. Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing