Sexual assault prevention committee ends year with healthy relationships panel

St. Thomas University’s sexual assault prevention committee held its final event of the year on March 28. The public panel focused on healthy relationships and consisted of two students and two professors.

Discussion was lead by SAPC co-chair Amy Baldwin, and consisted of questions concerning red flags for unhealthy relationships, social media and cultural and generational differences.

The two professors on the panel were Karla O’Regan, a criminology professor who researches sexual assault, and AJ Ripley, who teaches in the English and human rights departments and is a prominent LGBTQ academic and activist.

The two students on the panel were Vicky Narvaez Purtschert and Leo De La Torre, who are in a relationship with each other.

(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

O’Regan stressed that healthy relationships are about “choosing the team,” making decisions together and then not blaming each other if it doesn’t work. She also said it’s important to know when a team isn’t working for you anymore and be able to make the decision to leave.

Ripley highlighted that the queer and trans communities are at great risk of ending up in unhealthy relationships.

“We have a higher tolerance for bullshit in relationships,” they said, because of that extra dynamic of being oppressed. Ripley also called out the “capital R Romance” shown in movies as being heteronormative and not showing LGBTQ people what their relationships could look like. This lack of healthy examples and resources affects people across the board.

“Everyone just assumes that you know how to be in a healthy relationship, and so many people don’t, or never think about it until they’re not in one,” Baldwin said.

(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

The event also served as a launch for the committee’s video featuring students discussing healthy relationships.

Having both been in abusive relationships, Narvaez Purtschert and De La Torre stressed healthy ones are about respect. Growing up in Ecuador with a Swiss mother, Narvaez Purtschert said she experienced first hand the cultural and generational differences in relationships. Over the years, she watched her parents’ relationship grow into one she could relate to. Now her and Leo are focusing on respecting each other and taking their relationship one step at a time.

Baldwin said she is happy with what the SAPC has been able to accomplish since September.

“This year has been amazing. I knew that there was interest in a committee like this, but I didn’t realize how many people would actually engage. And I’m glad we’ve been able to impact a lot of people,” Baldwin said.

The committee has put on The Clothesline Project and held two Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre training sessions. Baldwin is confident these and other events will run again next year.

(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

The SAPC was originally an ad hoc committee, meaning it’s not a permanent committee of the STU Students’ Union. The other co-chair of the SAPC, Jimy Beltran, is “planning to amend the bylaws to put the committee as a permanent role of the VP of student life” Baldwin said.

Council did so at a meeting on April 5, confirming SAPC as an official committee within STUSU.

With immense student interest and support from STUSU, Baldwin is confident the sexual assault prevention committee will continue to make a positive impact next year.

“I think that the foundation we have set has been really, really solid so they can now do bigger, better events from that, which is nice.”

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