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Students from NPSS, Dr. Kearney, Bert Bowes and the Energetic Learning Campus will be marching from their respective schools to Centennial Park, where they will hold a rally to raise awareness of sexual violence and promote the vital role that men play in fostering healthy relationships.
Youth are at a good age to start educating, as statistics provided by the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Centre show that of the 25 per cent of Canadian women that will be assaulted in their lifetime, 50 per cent of those will be women under the age of 16. The School District has recently been rocked by accusations of two sexual assaults by a fifteen year old, and the students organizing the rally hope it will affect people when they are young.
“Sometimes you go through the halls or you see the way guys treat their girlfriends or comments that they make and you wonder where they got those attitudes,” says 15 year-old Esther Wenger. “We want to affect change, and I think that also can start in the ways families raise their kids, boyfriends treat their girlfriends and teachers teach their classes.”
That’s why they’re hoping the annual event starts to attract more of the community, and not just the high school. They’ve gotten the Women’s Resource Centre involved, to help spread the word farther, about not only the prevention of rape, but also what to do when it occurs.
“I think a march like this also brings up the fact that it’s not something to be ashamed of and that it does happen and that you should get help and help is out there for you,” hopes 16 year-old Mandy Wuth.
“We want the community involved,” adds Wenger, “not just coming to the march but throughout the rest of the year changing your attitudes towards the way you treat women.”
A member of the FSJWRS will be speaking at the rally, along with Daniel Vecchio, a former NPSS principal who helped start the campaign. Although the campaign may have started small with just one school, it has grown, and is now expecting between 1,500 and 2,000 attendees. The organizers have hope that they’ll be able to help spread the word of the My Strength is Not for Hurting Campaign.
“I think a small community could changes things; it could go national if it actually works,” says 16-year old Shirly Zhang. “We’re hoping that the community will get more involved with is this year.”
Dr. Kearney and NPSS students will meet at the high school at 1 p.m. Friday, April 27, with other schools and the community meeting at Centennial park around 2. T-shirts with My Strength is Not for Hurting slogans on them will be available by donation to the Women’s Resource Centre.
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