Photo: Zahraa Alumairy

Supporters of sexual assault survivors unite over arts and crafts

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By Zahraa Alumairy

A self-care arts and crafts event was held in support of sexual assault survivors in the Thomas Lounge on Thursday afternoon, coinciding with Jian Ghomeshi’s verdict delivery.

As part of the many We Believe Survivors events that took place that day, this “crafternoon” was collaboratively organized by Farrah Khan, the coordinator of Ryerson’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education (OSVSE), and the Centre for Women and Trans People. Khan said they created this event to support sexual violence survivors and others following the verdict.

She said the focus of the event was self-care for survivors of sexual violence and their supporters during this “hard time.”

“We wanted, at Ryerson, to create … a kind of space for people [to] heal together, talk together and also just nourish themselves and have compassion for themselves,” she said.

Activities included nail painting, creating jewelry and colouring in a colouring book titled “We Believe You,” which was a collaborative project between the group and illustrator Karen Campos Castillo. The book was released at the event and contains illustrations with affirmation messages for survivors.

“The Ghomeshi trial has been opening up a national conversation about sexual violence, but also a hard conversation for many of us who have been subjected to sexual violence,” said Khan.

She said survivors typically face questions from people like “‘Well, why didn’t you report? Look at those women, why couldn’t they tell the truth in court?’” Khan described these questions as “victim-blaming and survivor-shaming narratives.”

Jennifer Hollett, a broadcast journalist, was a participant in the session and one of the many individuals who helped with the support march and rally later that day.

“This news is triggering for a lot of people who have survived sexual assault,” Hollett said. “For me, the crafternoon is a big hug. It’s knowing I’m not alone in this fight for equality, for social justice.”

She describes crafting as a “really empowering, D.I.Y., punk rock,” approach to self-care.

Andrea Ridgley, an Academic Integrity Officer at Ryerson, was at the courthouse Thursday morning and decided to come to the craft session for support after hearing the verdict. .

“I didn’t think I’d be as affected as I have been by the verdict and I needed to come to a space where I felt connected to community,” she said.

Ridgley herself is a sexual assault survivor and said she “still struggles everyday” with her sense of self and confidence.

Kristen Murphy was also at the event and is a staff member at Ryerson’s Undergraduate Admissions department and is taking night classes in the public administration and governance program.

She said she survived three different instances of sexual and domestic assault, from before she was in high school to her mid-20s.

Through the art session, she said she was able to connect with other survivors and that crafting is part of her process of self-care.

“You’re focused on your work and it’s pretty meditative in a way and you’re able to also express yourself,” she said. “This event is really, really special, because you get to do that with other survivors.”

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