I cannot write this message without acknowledging those who were there from the start; those that helped build the Campaign into what it is today. We started with a small team of passionate students at Fenner Hall, a residential college at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia. In just over six months we expanded to a committee of students across the university, all working together to curate a Campaign in a way that fosters growth, change and legitimacy. To date, we have had more than 50 volunteers contribute to the Campaign and its growth. Being a part of a team that focuses on sexual violence and trauma is not an easy thing to do, and I am so grateful for the contributions of all members, both past and present. We could not have done it without you.
2020...what a year.
In founding The STOP Campaign just over two years ago and entering into our first year as an unincorporated Not-For-Profit organisation in 2020, we endured many hurdles. Whilst this message could be a reflection of the challenges and hurdles we have had to face and overcome, I think it better to use this time to bring to light the overarching problem of sexual violence, why we exist and reflect on the amazing things we have achieved so far.
Sexual violence flourishes in the university context, as it does in our society at large. Whilst residential spaces at universities are necessary and important - they are also communities where sexual violence, hazing, and shameful traditions have thrived since their beginnings.
More students, young people, allies, victim-survivors and community members are standing up to the injustice that is occurring. There is so much good that happens during a young person’s experience at university, and for it to be tainted by violence is unacceptable.
The global pandemic of sexual violence has existed long before COVID-19 became our new reality. We have all been living in a global crisis across our lifetimes. Many victim-survivors of sexual violence have not only lived the trauma of their experience, but have also been forced to re-live their trauma, been told it was their fault, and been betrayed by the institutions and structures that are meant to safeguard and protect them. This is why we exist. We exist because there is a problem, and who better to contribute to the solution than the victim-survivors and young people themselves.
Change is coming...
For too long victim-survivors have been silenced and The STOP Campaign is dedicated to changing that. We will not conform to societal norms that discourage young advocates and students from fighting for cultural change.
In my opinion, the unwavering passion of all members of the Campaign and of other organisations and activist groups will always outweigh that of those on six-figure salaries, particularly those that claim to care yet demonstrate the opposite. I have met many passionate people in positions of power who are creating substantial positive change in this space; they have been the ones who have listened to young people, consulted with their audiences, and elevated the voices of victim-survivors in their work. Unfortunately, the reality is that this type of person in an influential position is rare and institutions use their power to silence those who speak out.
Unfortunately for them, this only sparks more drive in our passionate volunteers to keep going.
Sexual violence is about power. Institutions have tried for too long to hold this power over us. We are speaking up. We are here. We will continue to speak. We will break down stigmas and reveal truths. We will reclaim our narratives.
It all started with a pledge. A 10-point pledge that would spark a movement to do more, and more, and more as time went on. We have advanced our advocacy from photo campaigns, bake sales and pledge-signing to survivor-centric, trauma informed programs that aim to advocate for the rights of our peers and educate young people about issues we are passionate about.
We empower young people to foster change in their communities to address, prevent and respond to sexual violence in a trauma-informed and safe manner. We empower victim-survivors to speak their truth and advocate for better.
2020 was not a year wasted. We were able to focus on refining our internal policies and procedures to foster a culture of wellbeing and happiness in the Campaign for all members. We conducted over twelve weeks of internal training for various members, implemented a safeguarding framework, and continued to provide members with learning and development opportunities where we could. As an organisation run solely on the passion and drive of volunteers, we aim to ensure that members’ safety and wellbeing on the Campaign is our first priority in all of our initiatives.
2021 is going to be our year. Our year not only making a difference in our local community, but also in the global community through being a part of an international solidarity movement to end sexual violence.
This message is an excerpt from our first Annual Report (2020), which can be found in full on our website at www.thestopcampaign.org.au/2020-annual-report