Breaking the silence

Dominant. Stoic. Emotionless. Aggressive. &nbsp;</p>

These are just some of the many words that were listed on the blackboard at Siegfried Hall of St. Jerome’s University March 3. 

Why were these words written? And what exactly were they describing? 

Let’s go back to Nov. 11, 2014. On this day, UW fraternity Sigma Chi posted a video titled “Break The Silence” on YouTube. The purpose of the video was to raise awareness on issues regarding sexual violence and rape culture, and how such issues could be prevented by changing our ideology of manhood. 

Fast-forward four months and nearly 10,000 views later. Sigma Chi has now been the centre of media attention with news outlets like CBC, Macleans, and The Huffington Post reporting on the fraternity’s PSA. 

The mass attention also resulted in the creation of the event Breaking the Silence: Sexual Assault on Campus, which took place March 3 at St. Jerome’s University’s Siegfried Hall. 

“Why we’re here tonight is to give individuals the information and tools that they need to forge relationships that are safe and [do that] in a respectful manner,” said event organizer and sexuality, marriage, and family studies (SMF)  assistant professor Denise Whitehead when explaining its significance. 

In addition to providing such information, the purpose of the event was to also raise the same key issues that the original YouTube video examined through discussions, an interactive exercise, and a Q-and-A segment with the approximately 120 guests who attended.  

Breaking the Silence was conducted by UW’s SMF department, along with the catalyst for the event itself, Male Allies Against Sexual Violence and Sigma Chi. 

Overall, the event was very refreshing. What made it unique in comparison to other sexual violence awareness events was the fact that it focused on the bigger picture. Rather than focusing on the aftermath of sexual assault, it focused on how to prevent this issue from even occurring.

Stephen Soucie, a member of the Male Allies Against Sexual Violence, believes that it all starts with identifying sexual violence as a man’s issue.

“Unfortunately, [the] majority of crimes are committed by men … as men, we have the responsibility to stand up and speak out,” said Soucie at the event.

Soucie also emphasized how there is a stigma on the definition of manhood. During his interactive exercise, Soucie asked audience members words that they would use to describe what it means to be a man. Along with dominant, stoic, emotionless, and aggressive, countless similar words were mentioned as well.

With this exercise, Soucie informed us of the necessity of breaking this stigma in order to prevent sexual violence from occurring.

“This idea of what it means to be a man affects us all, and that’s why sexual violence is a men’s issue … we are all affected by this dominant archetype … and our lives, both men and women, are structured by this.”

Dominic Aquilina, a longtime member of Sigma Chi, also agrees. 

“No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, we stand by that 100 per cent. It’s a horrible crime,  and we don’t want to be proponents of that,” Aquilina said.

Aquilina also explained the significance of having a fraternity focus on this particular topic. 

“People will pay attention more because it’s coming from a source that is unlikely,” said Aquilina. “As a fraternity, there’s this stigma associated with it. You hear the word fraternity, you think Animal House, you think National Lampoon, or crazy party animal stuff with very little respect for women. But that’s not we’re about.” 

To see what initiated this event and raise the awareness of breaking the stigma of manhood, watch the fraternity’s PSA on their YouTube channel, Sigma Chi Theta Psi.