Short film offers insight into supporting sexual assault survivors

Poster of the short film "Support grows here," at the screening this past Thursday, Oct 13th, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

Content warning: This story discusses sexual violence and assault, which may be triggering to some readers.

A short film screening at St. Thomas University aimed to share a positive message regarding how to help people who have experienced sexual assault.

Sexual Violence New Brunswick (SVNB), in collaboration with Fredericton Campus Sexual Assault Support and Advocacy, screened Support Grows Here on Oct. 13 at Kinsella Auditorium. The 12-minute film began as a campaign for the Fredericton Campus Sexual Assault and Advocacy group before it was a film.

“The campaign itself started in September 2021,” said Maggie Forsynth, director of post-secondary sexual violence programming at SVNB.

“We had a summer intern student who was really taken by the statistics around how many survivors described the harm they experienced while seeking support after a sexual assault and [it] being more harmful than the original assault itself.”

Forsynth said because the STU community is small, there is an opportunity to change the culture. She hopes through campus initiatives, her organization can cultivate a better and more supportive community when somebody discloses an incident of sexual assault.

The film depicts an incident of intimate partner sexual violence. It doesn’t show any explicit violence, but details the way a student survivor tries to seek support and how, at each point, she gets let down or hurt by the people’s responses to her trying to get help.

Forsynth said one important issue during filming was to make sure the story didn’t feel exploitative of the victims. As modern discourse surrounding sexual assault in media becomes more mainstream, questions about how sexual abuse is depicted dominate spaces.

“[Students] may not be able to focus in their classes because of the impacts of sexual violence and [they] may not be able to feel safe in their residence community or their homes or on campus any more,” said Forsynth.

The film seeks to present a realistic character, according to Forsynth.

“We want to focus on the nuances of how a person experiences and heals and processes because [people] have stereotypical ideas about how a survivor looks and acts,” Forsynth said.

“One thing I want people to take away from [the film] is that we all have  a huge ability to make a positive impact in the lives of people around us.”.