By Asha Swann
After spending seven years at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), Farrah Khan is now taking time to discover what brings her joy.
Khan joined TMU in November 2015 as the coordinator of Consent Comes First (CCF) at the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education. She became the manager of CCF in 2017, delegating a team of master’s of social work students and a volunteer, peer-led program called the Consent Action Team. Both the Consent Action Team and CCF created advocacy campaigns at TMU.
Khan has been central to CCF, providing TMU students with “free, confidential, trauma-informed, healing-centred support,” according to their website.
Her departure was announced on Jan. 26 through CCF’s Instagram account.
“Under her leadership, CCF created a healing-centred support service for TMU community members affected by sexual violence and gender-based violence, including case management, system navigation, court support, and safety planning,” the post read. “She worked tirelessly to create opportunities for people affected by violence to cultivate safety, healing and leadership on their terms.”
Khan explained that her decision to leave “wasn’t taken lightly.” She described feeling burnt out, with COVID-19 restrictions limiting what resources the CCF team could provide.
“Some of those requests were complicated and had a lot of needs that we couldn’t meet because of the pandemic at the time, because social services were not available or things were shut down,” she said. “It took a toll on our whole team.”
Khan said after much discussion with the CCF team, she knew she had to take some time away.
“I love my job,” she said. “I love waking up and knowing that I get to connect with students that are going through such a challenging time but trust themselves enough to get support.”
Khan said it’s “been an honour” to be a part of the CCF team because of the resilience of the students at the university.
Ever since the beginning of the winter break, she’s been focusing on what makes her happy. She described falling in love again with Toronto’s public library system and wanting to be present in her four-year-old son’s life. She said her favourite form of self-care at the moment is cooking and spending time with her family.
“I just want to really just have joy every day right now and spend time with my kid, spend time with my partner, spend time with my community,” she said. “I want to celebrate the things that are really wonderful about doing this work.”
Though she’s spent many years at the school, Khan’s career didn’t start at TMU. She has over two decades of experience behind her, previously working as a youth anti-violence coordinator at METRAC Toronto, a coordinator for the young Muslim women’s program at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and serving as co-chair of the provincial roundtable on violence against women and more.
“When you do crisis work, sometimes you forget to take care of yourself“
One project that particularly stands out to TMU alum and CCF member Lidija Projkovski is #HighSchoolToo, a project that ran from 2021 to 2022, which she described as her favourite project under Khan’s mentorship.
Projkovski graduated from TMU’s child and youth care program in 2022. During the second year of her undergrad, in 2019, she joined the CCF’s Consent Action Team, helping create self-care guides during the pandemic and advocating for sexual violence awareness at the university. The team also started #HighSchoolToo to promote consent education and policy change in secondary schools across Ontario.
Khan served as a feminist mentor for the program. Projkovski said throughout both #HighSchoolToo and CCF, Khan always made her feel supported while working on projects.
“I never felt like I asked a silly question, I never felt like my ideas weren’t heard,” Projkovski says. “Farrah really heard everyone and made sure everyone had a chance to talk and everyone had a chance to share.”
Khan said she finds it hard to pinpoint just one moment in her time at TMU that stands out the most. Like Projkovski, she described facilitating #HighSchoolToo with pride.
“[It] was amazing to get to talk to high school students and get to see consent action team members learn about policymaking,” Khan said with a smile. “They created press conferences, they did huge media talks, they created a policy platform.”
Another project Khan loved working on was Healing Comes in Waves (2022), a podcast meant to aid sexual assault survivors who weren’t able to find justice through the legal system.
“So often survivors are taught that the only way to get justice is through the criminal legal system,” she said. “[Healing Comes in Waves] is a seven-part podcast about healing from sexual violence, recognizing that so many people—so many survivors—never go to counselling…it’s just not available to them.”
Khan, Projkovski and the rest of the CCF team also worked on a project called You Choose What To Do Next (2021), a guide for sexual assault survivors navigating the criminal justice system. Khan said when creating this resource—with the aid of feminist attorneys—it was crucial for the documents to be free and easily accessible.
“That was the ethic that I had stepping into this work,” she said. “Because that’s really important to me; not everybody has the privilege of going to a university or college and they should be able to access our resources.”
Projkovski said while most of the work she did with Khan was through Zoom during the pandemic, she stresses that the skills she learned are things she still uses in her career.
“[Khan] really helped me be inspired, trust my instincts [and] trust what I know [to] be able to facilitate…in the context of consent work and consent education,” Projkovski said.
In an emailed statement to The Eyeopener, TMU assured that CCF will continue to operate after Khan’s departure.
“Marcia Boniferro, Manager of Student Care and Val Bruce, Interim Director, Student Housing and Community Care, will be providing support to the CCF staff as they continue with their work,” according to the statement. The statement said that as o Feb. 1, the school has “plans to recruit for this position.” No timeline for hiring was listed.
Right now, Khan’s main focus is to find out what brings her joy before she returns to trauma work. She explained how much she loves getting to spend time with her four-year-old son, who loves sharks playing at any park.
“[I’m] just finding ways to enjoy winter outside with my son, which has been so great,” she said. “And honestly, when you do crisis work, sometimes you forget to take care of yourself.”