Yes to consent, no to sexual violence: this is the OBOV mission

by PanDam

At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, a lockdown seemed extreme. But over 100 countries had implemented either a full or partial lockdown by the end of March. With the quarantines lasting weeks, people all over the world are forced to cope with disruptive shifts in their lifestyle: working from home, the lack of social interaction, and the distressing uncertainty about the future. Besides these consequences, cases of domestic violence have also surged. This makes organizations like OBOV extremely important in today’s world. But how are they adapting to this crisis?

“Our Bodies Our Voice” (OBOV) raises awareness about sexual violence and works to transform the consent culture within universities. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has reached the Netherlands, universities all over the entire country are closed. Yet the hardworking members of OBOV are as active as ever, shifting their activities online. Before the coronavirus, the organization provided workshops and training to students, staff and student associations. It also offered policy advice to the universities to create a safer environment for students and the staff.


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Join us Saturday 25th of April at 8pm, for a Virtual Movie night! ? As we cannot be physically together, we thought it would be a fun idea to watch a movie through Netflix Party. You just have to add the extension to your google chrome, and then we can all sync & watch the movie at same time! We will be watching “What Happened, Miss Simone”. This documentary explores Nina Simone’s remarkable life, as an inspiring African-American classical pianist, singer & civil-rights activist. Through her public successes and “private” life struggles, this documentary sheds light on important issues such as the brutal fight for civil rights in the US, domestic violence, political turmoil and her battle with depression. We will also be hosting a zoom call afterwards to discuss the documentary, share any thoughts and if needed reflect on the sensitive topics ✨✨✨

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“For many students, university is the first time to freely explore their identity, intimacy and a ‘post-high-school’ party culture“, so the focus on raising awareness about sexual violence and consent is crucial for students. Julia Nowicka, the external coordinator at OBOV UvA Student Board points out that young women aged 12-24 are the most exposed to the risk of sexual violence. In Amsterdam, approximately 8 out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 34 have experienced sexual harassment in the streets, according to the city’s research bureau. Although females comprise a large number of victims, men and marginalized groups also experience sexual violence.

Gabriella Thompson, the representative of the Board of Directors claims that creating safe spaces where students can talk about their boundaries, practice compassion and reflection is essential to changing harmful and dismissive behavior. OBOV breaks the stigma around sexual violence, encouraging students to get involved, learn about how they can help, and discover where to seek support if they need it.

With the current crisis, individuals are more vulnerable to domestic abuse. The student board of OBOV plays a fundamental role in dragging attention to this increased vulnerability through social media. This has become the main form of communication of the organization, which keeps in contact through videocalls on Zoom and is working hard to launch virtual events for the foreseeable future.

Social media helps OBOV keep the students engaged and aware about help-seeking options in Amsterdam regarding sexual abuse. Throughout this crisis, OBOV, together with Safo Space, continues to support survivors through an online non-therapeutic support group for victims of sexual violence called CARE. “Our first and foremost goal with CARE is to offer survivors of sexual violence support, a space to feel safe, and a community”. The support group is strict about confidentiality. Its rules are co-created by its participants to ensure that everyone has a voice on how to build a safe space for them. The focus is on validating and empowering victims. They achieve this by establishing horizontal relationships. That means that the organizers do not impose their opinions or authority and instead share roles and responsibilities with group members. Participants also have the possibility of reaching out for individual support.

In the CARE process, autonomy and self-determination are valued. In these hard times, OBOV and Safe Space will continue the online group sessions to maintain consistency and support throughout self-isolation. They offer safe spaces where victims can share their struggles, stories and feel safe ﹘a vital resource amidst the pandemic.


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