By Suzy Gilbert
This year is going to be different, this year is going to be good. I can feel it and I’m betting Cyntoia Brown can feel it too.
Brown will finally be released this August after spending 15 years in prison serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex. When she originally went to trial, the court failed to understand she is a survivor of child sex trafficking and was defending herself in a toxic and traumatic situation.
Her upcoming freedom is so exciting. This is a major step forward for women and sexual violence survivors everywhere. We are finally at a point where courts, judges and individuals are seeing the need to challenge out-of-date and oppressive ways of governing our society.
This change happened because people everywhere were advocating for Brown’s release. Congressmen, lawmakers, celebrities and regular people like me and you fought for Brown and challenged the system in order to help her get out. And we were successful.
We can rip a page from her story, remembering that we need to be just as active with other injustices. We need to keep fighting for feminist rights, sexual violence survivors, racial equality and LGBTQ rights to continue to see a positive change in our society.
While I’m definitely no expert on how to make positive changes for all these issues, I do have some knowledge in fighting for feminism and sexual assault survivors. I’ve recently started a new initiative called Together which is in partnership with Red Tent, a Winnipeg organization that provides education and creates awareness about safer spaces, sexual consent, respect and anti-oppression. Together teaches people about consent culture through respect, communication and sex positivity. We post original videos, images and written content on our social media and website to help educate people.
Here are just a few of Together’s goals for the present and future:
- End rape culture by normalizing consent culture.
- Create awareness and education about safer spaces, sexual consent respect and anti-oppression.
- Support and get justice for sexual assault survivors.
- Push for stricter laws and harsher sentences for sexual abusers.
How we’re going to do it:
- Have more conversations about consent and how to support survivors.
- Give training and workshops to organizations about these topics, and especially in creating a safer space for two-spirit people, trans people, non-binary people and women.
- Believe survivors always and hold abusers accountable for their actions.
- Organize our community and challenge lawmakers with letters and lobbying for stricter sentences.
Check back here twice a month to hear more from me about issues relating to women and gender, consent, sexual health, and support for sexual assault survivors.
Suzy Gilbert is finishing her last term at Red River College in the Creative Communications program and is the founder of Together, an awareness campaign promoting consensual sexual experiences through respect, communication and sex positivity. Together strives to support and educate young people about safe and healthy sexual relationships and consent culture. You can find Together on Instagram at @togetherwpg, on Facebook at Together Winnipeg and on its website at togetherwpg.ca.