Bronwyn: an Advocate

Bronwyn Haney, director of external affairs at The Hive, has a colourful way of dressing. She wears 1920’s business glasses and her long blonde curls are dip-dyed blue and purple. She strikes you as the kind of person who even looked interesting, like someone who you could talk to about any subject and who would always have a different and creative way of viewing it.

On a regular afternoon at Dawson College nearing the end of October I entered the school’s gender advocacy center to discuss a few topics pertaining to sexual assault and consent in a school setting with her. I was greeted warmly by Bronwyn and other members of The Hive in a bright, welcoming room with artwork on the walls, a sofa with pillows of various colors and designs thrown on top, and a collection of books in one corner with titles such as “A History of Feminism”. After admiring the small space the Hive operates in, and commenting about both our birthday parties and the upcoming Rocky Horror Ball she would be attending, our conversation began to shift towards the reason for my visit.

What was the reason for my visit? Well, the combat against crimes of sexual nature has seen a few developments in recent months regarding the issue of rape in schools that I wanted to discuss: universities in North America have been updating their procedures for the handling of on-campus sexual assault. These actions have been put in place following a surge in frustration and dissatisfaction voiced by the student body of prominent Universities, with complaints of a lack of support in tackling on-campus rape, raising awareness and educating faculty as well as students on sexual assault and consent. Concordia students are calling for sexual assault awareness workshops for all students and staff at the university, something that has recently been officialised in San Francisco, and at Columbia University an art student has made the news with a term-long project on on-campus rape by carrying her dorm room mattress with her all around campus, among many other measures being taken in universities.

But what I wanted to know was how my school was reacting to on-site rape, or raising awareness among students about this issue. So, knowing Bronwyn to be insightful and a compassionate person regarding human rights, I met up with her to discuss Dawson, her position at The Hive, and how both these entities are working towards eliminating rape amongst its students and staff.

I learned from speaking with her that she has been acting as director of external affairs since the beginning of the semester. She, like many other students in the school, was a bit confused about what exactly The Hive was at first. “I didn’t really know what it was,” she explained to me, recalling her first semester at Dawson last year. “It was being treated as a club at the time, so I was really confused and I felt that I didn’t really have a place here.” It’s true; the Hive is not a club and it is trying to change that view students have of it, by putting up a clear sign on their door stating “This is a service, not a club!” for example.

Bronwyn informed me enthusiastically that The Hive provides students with peer support and information on sexual health, sexuality and gender identification and gives out free tampons, pregnancy tests, condoms, lubricant, etc. to any student in need. It is also a safe space for people to come in and talk about issues pertaining to sex and gender without fear of being judged, or even just to take a break, have some tea and rest on their couch.

“I always really loved the idea when I first heard that Dawson had a gender advocacy center and all the things they offered here.” She then went on to point out how privileged we are a this school for having such a service. “Abbott doesn’t have one, Vanier doesn’t have one.”

She told me she wanted to get involved once she heard about it, and when her friend who works at the student union offered her the position, she jumped at the opportunity.

Bronwyn, as well as all the other members of The Hive, is not paid for her work. She is a volunteer and her primary role is to spread the word about The Hive’s intentions to other advocacy centers, attend workshops and events organized by other schools and advocacy centers that pertain to any of the issues The Hive handles and to be available at The Hive every Thursday to greet whoever comes to visit, answer their questions or help them find what they’re looking for.

The Hive is also a service that is working to fight rape and rape culture within the school. “Just the mentality The Hive has, and our point of view on rape and rape culture. We’re trying to abolish it, in terms of rape culture we’re trying to denounce it. […] We try to educate people on what rape culture is, what consent is, what yes means, what no means. For instance, say someone comes in and says ‘I’ve been raped’ we try and take the steps necessary to help the student so we contact—“ she suddenly grins and looks at another girl who was sitting with us, working quietly and listening in “Well, we contact Jules.” The girl laughs and explains to me “Because I’m the director of internal affairs at the student union so I can help in that way, but The Hive already takes the necessary steps depending on what the person wants to happen so if the person would not like to contact the police then we don’t. We contact whoever the person wants to contact.” Bronwyn adds “We just want to try and bring justice to the situation.”

Their primary method of combatting rape and rape culture is through education. “We have a lot of zines up on our wall and just a lot of information about it. We are all aware of what rape culture is and we can deconstruct it for students and educate on what is consent, rape culture, what is okay and what’s not okay to do in a given situation. We have pamphlets, we have brochures, there’s a lot of literature in the Hive about that.” She specified that all the reading is open to students who come in looking for information just not to take away with them, but they are working on a program to lend out their books.

Some of the Zines in the Hive that students are welcome to read for important information about sex, gender, etc.
Some of the Zines in the Hive that students are welcome to read for important information about sex, gender, etc.

The more I spoke with Bronwyn, the more I got a sense of her passion and her love for what she does. She genuinely cares about the issues brought up by The Hive, and you can tell she enjoys being a part of the fight not just against rape and rape culture, but also against gender stereotypes, human rights violations and a lack of education surrounding sex and sexual health. I could see the sense of fulfilment in her eyes when she spoke to me.

“I’m going to a workshop series called ‘How to Be a Better Friend and Ally’ which is not necessarily pertaining to consent specifically but it’s just surrounding the ideas of how to be supportive.” It seems like a very fitting workshop for someone who occasionally enters in contact with survivors of rape to attend in order to be able to communicate in a caring and understanding manner.

“Do you think that Dawson has done enough to address rape and rape culture?” I asked her towards the end of my visit.

Her answer was out of her mouth before I even finished the question. “No,” she replied. “No, definitely not. It’s not something that’s openly discussed here, it’s something that’s often avoided.”

Her position on the importance of tackling on-campus rape demonstrated just how committed she is to help her fellow students: “This is supposed to be a safe space for students to come and learn, not to get harassed.”

I concluded the interview with one very important question. What more could Dawson do? How could we eliminate on-campus rape and rape culture within the school once and for all? “I think that we could encourage dialog about these subjects. I think that we can encourage students to come forward if anything happened to them and take the steps to abolish whatever negative situation that might be. That would be the best, just to start communicating, to start fixing that, so that we can have a safe space for students… and for staff.”

The Hive is located in room 2D. 1a in Dawson College and welcome students to visit them and take advantage of their numerous services. Don’t be shy!

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