Now What Canada Visits BC High Schools With Educational Presentation Series
A BC sexual assault survivor turned educator is taking her story public this September in a series of high school presentations designed to help teens navigate consent and trauma.
Now What Canada’s Fiona Tymm, 29, was silent for 10 years after she was drugged and raped as a 17-year-old high school student. After years of quietly seeking support and healing, she finally broke the silence to her family in 2021 before publishing her story as one of 13 authors in the 2022 anthology book She Lives Her Truth. No longer burdened by the shame of her secret, Tymm is empowered to help others through impactful, informative presentations.
“Sexual assault is something that breaks my heart that I want to help change in the world. I want to give a voice to victims and ultimately reduce the number of cases we see,” she says. “Starting education at a young age will help make a difference. Sadly, when I'm in classrooms from grade 8 through 12, by the time I’m speaking with senior students, the majority of the room has already had numerous experiences. That violation is happening so early that it will set a tone in a lot of areas of their lives.”
Sexual assault is prevalent, although over 80% of cases in Canada are unreported, according to Justice Canada. One in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and one in six boys will be assaulted before the age of 16.
While the viral #MeToo movement built momentum in awareness against sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape culture for women especially, Tymm is inspired to teach all young people ways to confidently steer potentionally dangerous scenarios by first explaining the importance of consent.
“We can't necessarily go with our kids to the parties or to the situations where they'll be experiencing things, but we can equip them with better knowledge ahead of time,” she adds.
Now What Canada assembly presentations focus on four main points: understanding consent to the core — right down to body language — and utilizing it in other areas of life outside of the sexual context; seeking support (it’s never too late and family members often need it too); the impact of trauma — how it’s stored in the body and affects other areas of life; and options for justice, including restorative.
“Teenagers often present with a ‘too cool for school’ demeanour, but when you shock them a little with an honest, direct story, it gets their attention and builds an instant connection and jumpstarts conversations they’re eager to have,” says Tymm. “I’m someone who understands what they've gone through or what they're going through because I’ve lived it and walked the healing journey.”
Her story starts on a typical yet memorable Saturday. Tymm had a hockey game in the morning and bought her prom dress that afternoon. Her friend was invited to hang out with the boy she liked and Tymm went along as her plus one. When they were offered a drink, she ignored her instincts and indulged, not knowing her drink was spiked. She was raped by three older boys, and was left not only physically damaged but emotionally scarred.
“I was a good girl; I played on all the sports teams, I was in leadership, and I got really good grades. I had great relationships with teachers, but I was also a social butterfly who was friends with everyone and very involved in my school,” she says. “But none of that mattered; it can happen to anyone. I was raised in a conservative family in the Fraser Valley and we didn’t talk about sexual assault. Unfortunately, I learned about it the hard way.”
Fiona Tymm is an analytical chemist who left the confines of the lab researching health products and plants to travel Southeast Asia in early 2020. After COVID-19 impacted her travels, she returned home to Chilliwack, BC to reassess life and her career path. She found herself determined to create change and after numerous workshops and courses, including First Responder to Sexual Assault & Abuse Training through the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, is now a trauma-informed sexual assault and consent educator based in Rossland, BC.
Now What Canada presentations are approximately one hour long, including time for Q&As. Content is adjusted to fit the audience, based on group size and the age of the students (elementary, high school, university). Presentations can also be geared toward community or corporate groups.
As seen in The Voice online and in print (page 5).
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