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A UofGH alumna working to prevent sexual violence
It’s really about centring the student voice, creating peer-to-peer dialogues, and disseminating the ideas of consent and sexual violence in innovative ways.
University of Guelph-Humber Justice Studies alumna Jennifer Flood always harboured a passion for social justice and advocacy, but it was not until her field placement that she started to realize exactly how she could make an impact.
As a student, her favourite courses revolved around restorative justice and how to confront Canadian social issues, so a placement researching sexual violence prevention education at Humber College’s Office of Student Conduct felt like a perfect fit.
She thought the placement would last only four months, but it was clear the work she was doing was important. Four years later, Flood is Humber College’s Coordinator, Sexual Violence Prevention & Education.
Further, she has joined the Government of Canada’s Advisory Committee on the Framework to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions, a five-year project that brings together top experts from higher education institutions across the country.
“This is an important committee because we are working to create a universal framework for best practices that can be used as an advocacy tool for institutions,” Flood explained of the project, which began in January 2019.
“It really provides that landscape for institutions to continue to advocate for these conversations and work.”
Sharing her story
For Flood, the issue of gender-based and sexual violence, as well as the trauma that ensues, hits close to home.
“I survived sexual violence. I have family members who have as well,” Flood said. “It was a passion of mine that I’ve always wanted to pursue. I’ve also always been involved in mental-health advocacy and we know there are many intersections with sexual violence. I know personally I experienced mental-health challenges after what happened to me, and there was a lot of trauma that came along with that.
“I’ve now been able to take that trauma and put it into my profession. Not many people can say that, so I feel really privileged.”
Flood has become a prolific public speaker, taking it upon herself to share her story in the hopes that it might help educate others, or perhaps even help others who are suffering. She’s received emails from students and even former professors letting her know how impactful her words were.
“You can’t necessarily measure if prevention’s working, but to read emails or stories like that, you think: ‘OK, I have to keep going,’” she reflected.
Making her voice heard nationally
Flood’s work in sexual violence prevention isn’t limited to the Advisory Committee. She oversaw the Bringing in the Bystander program at Humber, she developed and launched the Consent Peer Education program, and she has facilitated more than 50 workshops.
“We try to find different ways to get students engaged,” she explained. “It’s really about centring the student voice, creating peer-to-peer dialogues, and disseminating the ideas of consent and sexual violence in innovative ways.”
Flood initially felt slightly daunted by the prospect of participating in a national Advisory Committee with top experts in her field, but by the end of the first meeting, she had already realized how much she could contribute.
“At first I thought: ‘Here I am, a young professional, what do I know?’” she recalled. “But I wound up speaking up about all of the work that I’ve been doing and the experience I have, and I realized coming out of it, I know more than I thought I did.
“My confidence really grew from that experience, which carried over to my work here. I’m doing a lot more keynote speeches and workshops. So I feel really honoured and privileged to be a part of it. Just to work in that room of people who do such incredible work is so profound.”