Aaron Brown is the first recipient of the Courage to Act: Addressing and Preventing Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions certificate! Impressively, Aaron has attended every webinar offered through Courage to Act. Learn more about Aaron and the inspiring and impactful work he does at his PSI and in his community.
1. Please share about the work you do in your community (i.e. your work, advocacy, research or a community project that you are a part of).
As the Coordinator, Sexual Violence Prevention & Education (SVPE) at Humber, I am responsible for all educational initiatives related to consent, sexual violence, and rape culture for Humber & Guelph-Humber’s 37,000+ full-time students and 23,700+ part-time and continuing education students. I coordinate our Consent Peer Education Program (CPEP), Bringing in the Bystander training, a community education placement for 3rd year nursing students, and all large-scale initiatives (e.g. Take Back the Night, 16 Days of Activism); additionally, I am one of the leads for our Taskforce on Prevention & Responding to Sexual Violence, and chair two working groups as part of this taskforce: Student Awareness & Prevention, and Men Seeking Change.
2. What excites you about being part of the Courage to Act network?
One of the challenging parts of this work that I’ve heard many colleagues share is how isolating it can feel at our institutions. Many of us are working alone, and navigating the pressures of this work alongside many bureaucratic challenges can be so deflating sometimes. Being a part of the Courage to Act network brings plenty of learning opportunities, but it also brings a sense of solidarity; I am affirmed by seeing and hearing about both the successes and challenges that colleagues are having across the country, and I am revitalized by the moments we’re able to connect together.
3. What inspired you to participate in our webinar series? What have you found most helpful about this series?
As someone who is relatively new to the field, the Courage to Act webinar series was perfectly timed with my transition into this role. The series has provided me an opportunity to learn not only about the different ways that our identities intersect and inform our experiences of gender-based violence, but also how the different elements of gender-based violence prevention, education, response, and support intersect; while my role isn’t focused on response, support, or adjudication, knowing more about these elements and how they influence and are influenced by prevention and education work has been very informative.
4. What do you wish people knew about gender-based violence that rarely gets talked about?
I’m currently finishing up my Master of Education (Student Development & Student Services in Higher Education) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and an area I’ve been reading about and starting to develop a research proposal on is the experiences of student sex workers in Canadian higher education. There is plenty of research more broadly on sex work (though a lot of it is problematic), and there is a decent amount of research outside of Canada on student sex workers’ experiences in higher education; however, within Canada there is next to nothing on this particular population. An area I wish we all knew more about was how the intersection of student identity with sex worker identity with all of our other identities influences students experiences of gender-based violence. How do institutional policies, Canadian law, whorephobia and the whorearchy, etcetera, contribute to experiences of gender-based violence for student sex workers?
5. What is one project, tool or resource that you worked on that you want people to know about?
A project that I am in the process of working on is developing a sexual violence prevention and education curriculum to guide all programming and initiatives at Humber & University of Guelph-Humber; I am currently working through the American College Personnel Association’s (ACPA) curricular approach. One of the challenging pieces of having a student team that changes every year is navigating consistency in educational opportunities provided to our students, and ensuring that all programming is working towards a shared vision, is research-informed, etcetera; additionally, being one person for such a vast student population leads to capacity challenges. My hope is that the eventual curriculum developed will provide greater structure for initiatives on a year-to-year basis, a clearer framework for assessing our educational opportunities, serve as a tool for other departments (such as Residence Life) who are developing events and initiatives, and increase buy-in for collaborative opportunities with faculty.
Another is The Love in the Time of Corona initiative, an ongoing series of conversations with members from Humber College and Centennial College, where we discuss intimacy, love, and sex in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic through our lived experiences and perspectives. Each episode is recorded and released as a podcast afterwards. The recordings are available on Centennial College’s (very aesthetically-pleasing) podcast website; additionally, folks can search “Life at Humber” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Anchor to find the recordings on their preferred podcasting app.
The idea’s origin lies with Rick Ezekiel (Director, Equitable Learning, Health and Wellness at Centennial College), and it is a collaborative project between Dr. Silvia D’Addario (Manager of Global Citizenship, Equity and Inclusion Programs at Centennial College), Seán Kinsella (Director, the Eighth Fire at Centennial College), Monique Chambers (Coordinator, Student Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives – BASE Program at Humber College), Amita Singh (Counsellor & Sexual Violence Support Coordinator at Centennial College) and myself.
7. What author, researcher or advocate or organization inspires you?
I just finished reading Kai Cheng Thom’s I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes From the End of the World, and I think everyone needs to read this book! The unpacking of boundaries, consent, sexual violence, accountability, and how we move forward with those who have done harm–particularly in reference to the 2SLGBTQ+ community–is brilliant and done with a great deal of nuance. I think often there is a pressure to speak about consent in very black and white terms, take carceral and punitive approaches, and so on in higher education–especially since a lot of roles like mine are housed under conduct administration–which don’t reflect lived experiences, don’t allow for healing, etcetera.