New scholarship honouring sexual assault victim aimed at eradicating violence

·3 min read
Courtney Clarke, board member of Violence Prevention Avalon East, says eradicating violence against women starts by attacking the root causes. (CBC - image credit)
Courtney Clarke, board member of Violence Prevention Avalon East, says eradicating violence against women starts by attacking the root causes. (CBC - image credit)

The creator of a new Memorial University scholarship aims to alleviate the root causes of violence through research and education.

Courtney Clarke, chair of Violence Prevention Avalon East, says the Jane Doe Award in Anti-Violence Research honours the victim in a 2014 sexual assault case involving Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Doug Snelgrove.

Snelgrove was sentenced to four years in prison last month for sexually assaulting Jane Doe — a pseudonym used during the trial to protect her identity — in her home. He has filed an appeal. Clarke said she's encountered countless victims of violence over the years who were inspired by Jane Doe's courage and perseverance.

"Whether she realizes it or not, she has really made a difference in our province," said Clarke

In creating the scholarship, Clarke has pledged $1,000 of her own money to help students from equity groups, particularly Indigenous women and gender-diverse students whose research focuses on violence prevention.

"I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that it keeps going on in perpetuity," Clarke said.

As a survivor of violence herself, Clarke said, she was "very much impacted" by the story of Jane Doe, who endured three trials over the course of five years before finally seeing her aggressor brought to justice, and Clarke said her experience working with victims of violence laid bare the need for preventive education.

"Half of women over the age of 15 experience a sexual or physical violence moment in their life in our province," she said.

A post-pandemic surge

Clarke said the need for violence prevention has become even more pronounced since the onset of the pandemic, with the number of crisis calls to Violence Prevention Avalon East — one of several regional associations comprising anti-violence community and government agencies — spiking in the latter half of 2020.

Meg Roberts/CBC
Meg Roberts/CBC

The sudden surge meant resources normally devoted to prevention were diverted to crisis management.

"It's almost like putting out fires, but how do you rebuild the foundation if you have all these fires everywhere?" Clarke said.

Establishing the scholarship, Clarke said, was a way of rebuilding that foundation, by providing research and preventive education to look at the longer-term ways of eliminating violence in all its forms.

"But also, it's just to make sure that people don't forget about this, so that we don't have this happen again," she said.

In addition to helping provide access to research and education, Clarke said, the average citizen can do their part on a daily basis to put an end to violence.

One way, she said, is through allyship — specifically male allyship.

"We need men to step up," she said. "If they see something's happening, don't just let them justify it and walk away."

To eradicate violence, Clarke said, one must start at the root causes, such as insufficient access to mental health supports, or food and housing insecurity.

"Violence isn't something that happens, it's a consequence of something much greater," she said, "And unless we start focusing on those grassroots situations, we're never going to move forward."

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