Honouring Our Stories

The NOWC project that aims to acknowledge and empower the survivors of sexual assault/abuse

By Kaelen Pelaia, Staff Writer

There is a great capacity in the human spirit for resilience and strength. Time and time again, when faced with adversity, people rise above it and emerge stronger and braver than ever before. The team at the Northern Ontario Women’s Center (NOWC) have embraced this idea, and have encapsulated it within their project titled, Honouring Our Stories.

The NOWC runs various workshops and programs in Northwestern Ontario aimed at young girls and women, with the goal of having them “fully engage in their lives and communities.” The Center commits itself to several endeavors in order to accomplish their mission, including advocating for individuals and communities, community education, and more.

Honouring Our Stories first began in November of 2017, with the goal to “increase women, police, and the community’s understanding [in order] to acknowledge of the resiliency and dignity of survivors of sexual violence.” The NOWC sought to achieve this through digital storytelling and the creation of art in various forms. Digital storytelling involves the creation of a variety of images and art pieces displayed in a short 2 to 5-minute video, which focuses on a first-person perspective and self-healing. The program operates on the philosophy that “creating stories and art together gives us a way to explore one another’s narratives and reveal a shared humanity.” The project aims to challenge victim-blaming narratives and shift the rhetoric surrounding sexual violence.

Open to women of all backgrounds and orientations, the project’s long-term goal is to utilize both art and digital storytelling, combined with increased police cooperation and awareness, to ensure the safety and security of the community at large.

The Center has many community partners to assist with funding and with other forms of sponsorship, including the support of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, which displays the artwork and through the utilization of “community story strategies” for media outreach and awareness. The Thunder Bay Police Department has also made a commitment to the project, striving towards its goal of “serving and protecting the community in a sensitive, efficient, and effective manner.”

For those interested in the program and the digital storytelling format, there will be a screening of the stories of the women involved in Honouring Our Stories at the P.A.C.I. Auditorium building on January 16th at noon. This event is free, but the organizers ask that you reserve your ticket online, which can be accessed via their Facebook event page.

For more information about the project, there are a variety of resources on the NOWC’s web page under “Honouring Our Stories.” Be sure to visit their main website as well for a list of additional programs, services, and resources.

The project of the NOWC is an example of a community coming together to improve itself. Regardless of gender, denomination, or class, a safer and more secure community benefits the entirety of the public. Honouring Our Stories is more than an acknowledgement of the strength and determination of survivors of sexual abuse, it is a pledge to a safer, stronger, and united Northern Ontario.