With all the sexual assault allegations that have been pouring in lately, it’s important to know the safe spaces you can go to if you need to talk. Anova, formerly known as the sexual assault centre, created a course a year ago to allow males between the ages of 20 and 30 a space where they can talk. The course is offered in tandem with the boys and girls club and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU).
Wadhah Baobaid is one of the course’s facilitators from Anova and he says that the topics can range from sex work to issues regarding sexism and homophobia. However, the topic he finds the course is most centred around is consent. Studies have proven that 1 in 3 Canadians can properly define the term, many of the males that attend Man Made are found to have misconceptions of practice. Baobaid says that they use a video called the tea video which he considers to be helpful. “The video really breaks down consent in consent in a way that, you’re not supposed to offer tea to someone that’s passed out or unconscious or if someone agreed to have tea… now that they’re choosing not to you can’t force them to have tea…” He acknowledges that the concept sounds silly but he finds that it really puts the concept of consent in a straight forward way that enforces the importance of establishing it with a partner.
When asked how we can help our society understand or see sexual violence as a serious issue, Baobaid says that it all starts with conversations. “It really is involving (people) and having a safe space where these young guys or young individuals will feel comfortable sharing with us where they’re at in order for us to help them have better understanding or to deal with these misconceptions.” Baobaid says that part of the focus of the course is to help males understand through a woman’s perspective. He says that the dialogue and the discussion group setting of the course allows them the ability to talk to men about harassment- explaining that catcalling and other verbal affronts or physical actions are not compliments and understand that that kind of behaviour is wrong.
Eventually, Man Made will be coming to Fanshawe. Baobaid says that what they have learned from the course over the past year is that there is a lack of circles or groups that allows males to have general conversations. He adds that he feels that men will want the course at Fanshawe too, saying that these groups will give male students the space to “have thoughtful conversations in a safe space” where they won’t have to worry about being judged for doing so. The course is also a relaxed setting with food and videos to help spark conversation about these difficult topics.
There is no word about whether or not Western will also have the course, Baobaid hopes that the program will continue to grow. “Personally, I found individuals from the first week they come in, they have these walls and that the end of the eighth week they’re really sharing stories that aren’t relevant to the program, but personal stories that they wouldn’t have found other places to be comfortable enough to share.” He hopes that other agencies, Fanshawe and Western will continue in their efforts to create safe spaces for men to talk.