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Momentum against violence and sexual assault growing, says P.E.I. walk participant

Leading the charge in Charlottetown Wednesday in the Walk in Silence for Victims of Family Violence are Family Violence Prevention Services executive director Danya O’Malley, left, UPEI student and survivor of violence Taya Nabuurs and Ann Sherman, chairwoman of the Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention.
Leading the charge in Charlottetown Wednesday in the Walk in Silence for Victims of Family Violence are Family Violence Prevention Services executive director Danya O’Malley, left, UPEI student and survivor of violence Taya Nabuurs and Ann Sherman, chairwoman of the Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention. - Jim Day

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Taya Nabuurs is hearing a lot of fellow university students talking about sexual abuse and violence these days.

The students, both male and female, are discussing it much more than before, even more than just a short time ago.

Nabuurs, a survivor of violence herself, takes this as a good sign.

She does not believe students – and many, many others – are speaking up in larger numbers and stronger voices because the problem is getting worse.

Related: New videos aim to equip Islanders to intervene in family violence

She believes, rather, the climate has improved to ease resistance to speak out.

She credits powerful momentum driven by the #MeToo movement in spurring women to find their voice and seek justice against their perpetrators.

“I am of the opinion that it is likely that people are just more comfortable speaking out about these things,’’ Nabuurs told The Guardian following the annual Walk in Silence for Victims of Family Violence held in Charlottetown Wednesday.

“What is really uplifting for me is seeing how many people in the community are supporting survivors of violence, how many people are there to support you and share their own experiences. It’s very comforting because violence can be very isolating…. While they are heavy topics and they can be hard to talk about, it is so positive to have these conversations and we want to keep having these conversations.’’
-Taya Nabuurs

Nabuurs, 22, a fourth-year political science student at UPEI, gave a moving speech at the foot of the Coles Building to more than 100 people. She then joined two other women to carry a banner and lead the walk to City Hall that served as a symbolic gesture by those determined to give voice to family violence victims who remain silent out of shame or fear.

“It takes so much strength and courage for survivors to come forward with their stories, and we must ensure that all survivors feel safe and supported,’’ Nabuurs told the crowd, that included survivors, politicians and determined advocates for change.

“Many survivors are silenced for years, and even decades, because they are afraid of how they will be received if they are to come forward.’’

Related: Georgetown school hosts silent walk to mark Family Violence Prevention Week

Nabuurs, though, feels positive momentum exists now towards addressing violence and abuse in a concerted, impactful way.

A member of the Family Violence Prevention Youth Engagement Working Group, Nabuurs is part of a task force working to develop UPEI’s first-ever stand-alone sexual violence policy.

She is pleased with the response from the university, and the public in general, to get at this social cancer in a much more meaningful fashion than in the past.

“What is really uplifting for me is seeing how many people in the community are supporting survivors of violence, how many people are there to support you and share their own experiences,’’ says Nabuurs.

“It’s very comforting because violence can be very isolating…while they are heavy topics and they can be hard to talk about, it is so positive to have these conversations and we want to keep having these conversations.’’

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