Today I had the privilege of working with the wonderful women at the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area (SACHA). We spent the day exploring the potentials of social media and how it can be used to advance the SACHA mission of eradicating violence against women (vaw). Despite the seriousness of the work, the commitment to anti-oppressive and anti-racist process that they bring to their social justice work was inspiring and a reminder of the importance of respectful consideration in building and maintaining relationships.
We spent the morning reviewing several social media tools, not in technical detail but in theoretical practice: when to use what, what messages go where, who gets them, how to run risk management, although that’s not the way it was termed. That’s my euphemism for the trolls who continually threaten the peaceful discourse of anti-violence work. Trolls are those who engage with the internet with an intent to disrupt discussion by posting inflammatory comments that are meant to provoke pain and insult. You can imagine the “easy target” that women’s groups are to trolls. Sexual assault advocates have long been the brunt of a denying public, one that says: she hit him first, or thinks: what did she do to deserve that? I see it on my Facebook wall sometimes, but my friends are by no means trolling and are open to the discussion. The pushback from many is around prevalence numbers; as “they” say: lies, damn lies and statistics. But changing attitudes takes a long time and is patient work. And besides, that behaviour is against my social media policy and they would no longer be my friends. There is room for discussion and disagreement without resorting to angry rhetoric and provocative cruelty.
There is reluctance in many organizations to release their staff to the grips of social media and the distraction it will inevitably create. SACHA is leading the way among vaw agencies in using social media tools to educate and empower women. Not-for-profits are coming to recognize the potential that social media has in furthering their social justice goals. There’s a brave new world before us, that’s for sure.
Lunch was at the YWCA’s United Buff-Way and Silent Auction held in the cafe at the downtown location on McNab St. October and November are busy times for non-profits in the Hamilton area as they enter the United Way fundraising season with potluck dinners, silent auctions and whatever other innovative ways they can think of to assist in achieving this year’s target goal. It was a delicious lunch buffet and I was stuffed with salads and pizza and meatballs and risotto and so much more, especially the post-lunch pastries. mmmmmm.
After lunch we went to work on figuring out how to best operationalize their knowledge to work toward the fulfillment of their mission. I love working with people, watching them communicate collaboratively, think creatively. There’s a spark in the air with the excitement of true engagement. We were so fortunate as to have access to a window that could be opened from time to time to let the cool air waft through the room. The view was of the walled garden of the McQuesten House across the street.
The method of facilitation that we used is called the Technology of Participation method, or ToP. I went through their Facilitator program last year and have put my skills to good use so far working with groups at the university and in the violence against women community.
It was a great afternoon, with lots of good ideas tossed around and put up on the wall, sorted into shapes that evolved into the beginnings of a plan. The women were fun to work with and committed to the process. I look forward to seeing how they move forward with their ideas. No doubt about it, I’ll share their progress here.
Change can be tough, even when it’s welcome and anticipated change. Kudos to SACHA for boldly going where few dare to go. Yet.