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Next topic at the Sarnia Speaks forum: the #MeToo movement

Tara Jeffrey Soon after she launched Sarnia Speaks, Danielle Cooper knew she wanted to include the #MeToo movement.
Sarnia Speaks is a grassroots speaker series at the Sarnia Library Theatre that uses open dialogue to address often difficult issues. Bisi Alawode Photography

Tara Jeffrey

Soon after she launched Sarnia Speaks, Danielle Cooper knew she wanted to include the #MeToo movement.

“When it started to become more prevalent in the news media, I had multiple people send me messages asking if we could do a Sarnia Speaks event on this topic,” said the founder of the successful grassroots dialogue series.

“Many were saying that the MeToo movement affected them deeply, and were feeling like they were finally allowed to share their experiences, and that people would actually believe them.

“And that really resonated with me.”

#MeToo refers to a viral hashtag coined in recent years to thrust the conversation about sexual violence and abuse into the spotlight, and reflect the growing efforts to support survivors.

After months of planning, Cooper and her committee will host Sarnia Speaks: #MeToo on Sept. 26 at the Sarnia Public Library at 6:30 p.m.

The event, an open, safe dialogue, will feature two panelists, along with moderator, Annalise Trudell, education manager at Anova, a London agency that provides shelter, support, advocacy and education for survivors of sexual violence and abuse.

“We know that one in three Canadian women will be sexually assaulted — and one in six men,” said Trudell, who recently founded ManMade at Western University, a program designed to help men create positive change, covering a range of topics from healthy masculinity to consent.

Annalise Trudell

“Yet we don’t have the spaces and opportunities to open up as survivors, and supporters of survivors.

“This event is really focused on holding a space where we stop minimizing our experiences, educating people that their experiences count, and looking at the healing that can happen by hearing others’ stories.”

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not declining. Girls are four times more likely than boys to be sexually abused by a family member, while women with disabilities, the institutionalized, Aboriginal women, single women, and women who are unemployed or have low income are at heightened risk of sexual assault.

The vast majority of incidents are never reported to police.

“I hope that this event creates a bit of a public consciousness movement that this is a widespread issue, and it deserves to have a light shone on it,” said Trudell.

“And most importantly, that survivors and their supporters feel understood, heard, and validated.”


WHAT: Sarnia Speaks: #MeToo

WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Sarnia Library

DETAILS: Event is free and open to the public

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