The event is intended to raise awareness of sexual violence among youth, and the vital role young men can play in fostering healthy relationships. Before the march, Peace Project co-ordinator Clarice Eckford spoke to the crowd. She says it’s key to teach these values to young people when they are first embarking on relationships.
“High school is good because this is when youth and young adults are really trying to figure out relationships and what they want in a relationship and how they want to act in a relationship,” she argues. “So to get young men and women together to have that conversation start is really important.”
She adds it’s hard for young men and women to be honest about how they’re feeling at their age.
The My Strength event was organized by NPSS students who want to see the awareness they’re promoting turned into actions. Eckford explains that they’re looking to “enlist” young men to take action against rape and abuse.
“Just standing up and saying, ‘we don’t want the women in our lives to be abused, and we don’t want abuse to go on, and just standing beside women and girls.”
That includes the difficult task of telling their friends when they don’t agree with something they’re doing. Instead of blaming the victim, she suggests thinking, “not on my watch,” “she doesn’t deserve it,” or “I’ll make sure she gets home safe.”
Once at Centennial Park, the group heard from a member of the Fort St. John Women’s Society as well as a woman who survived years of domestic abuse.
“The day I left, I found my strength,” she said.
Through research so far, the Peace Project has determined that Fort St. John has the second highest rate of domestic violence in the province. Much of the next two years of the project will be a push to educate youth and families about healthy relationships, in conjunction with the My Strength campaign.