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Leadership spotlight: Farrah Khan

May 04, 2017
Individual impact meets systemic change

Farrah Khan joined Ryerson University as its inaugural coordinator of sexual violence support and education in November 2015. An advocate with extensive experience addressing rape culture and sexual violence, Farrah’s aimed to create both individual and systemic change on campus.

As part of the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education (OSVSE), Farrah’s worked to establish a network of support for survivors, as well as training and education initiatives for the broader community. Over 100 survivors who have been subjected to sexual violence (either historically or since coming to Ryerson) have connected with the office since its inception. Support provided varies depending on the needs of the individual, and includes navigating systems, facilitating academic consideration, health support (STI checkup, pregnancy options), legal accompaniment and more. The office also extends its support to partners, parents and friends of survivors.

Farrah Khan

“For a long time following my assault, I had an ongoing fear that I would never be able to feel safe on campus again. That fear was eradicated when I had the opportunity to meet Farrah in her office,” shared Hannah Kurchik. “Farrah is an extraordinary advocate, a trustworthy listener, and has been instrumental in my healing and growth as a person. I am incredibly appreciative.”

Under Farrah’s guidance, the OSVSE has delivered extensive training to the Ryerson community, including faculty, Student Affairs staff, campus bar staff, orientation student staff and leaders, housing and residence life staff, and student athletes. As part of its Consent Comes First campaign, the office launched a website which includes resources for members of our community to give support. For example, the BRAVE model helps us all to understand how to respond if someone discloses sexual violence. The model purposefully includes plain, clear language, reminding us that you don’t need to be an expert to support someone, and that we all have a role to play in countering rape culture and sexual violence.

Farrah’s background is in grassroots, feminist, violence against women activist organizations. Now, at a large institution like Ryerson, she’s asking the question, “What does it mean to change from within?” A large part of this is recognizing that one person alone cannot impact the change that is necessary. She partners across campus to develop and deliver initiatives that meet the needs of our diverse community. For example, the OSVSE partners with the Ryerson Students’ Union and others to provide monthly yoga sessions for survivors.

The We Believe You colouring book
The #WeBelieveSurvivors campaign included a “We Believe You” colouring book.

In response to the Ghomeshi verdict, the office worked with the Centre for Women and Trans People to launch a five-day #WeBelieveSurvivors campaign. The campaign included a “We Believe You” colouring book and inspired crafternoons across the country. Social media was flooded with supportive hashtags, clear evidence of how Farrah’s work is changing the narrative around sexual violence.

As this new office continues to grow, dialogue is highly welcomed. Farrah is committed to actively listening, learning and amplifying communities impacted by sexual violence, specifically voices that are often left out of these conversations. There are many channels to provide feedback including OSVSE osvse@ryerson.ca or the Office of Vice-Provost Students at vps@ryerson.ca.

Community members reflect on Farrah’s impact on campus

Heather Lane Vetere

Heather Lane Vetere

Vice-Provost, Students

Not only is Farrah a nationally recognized advocate with deep experience supporting survivors of sexual violence, she's been a tremendous asset to the university. Her work supporting our community has been creative, supportive and most importantly, effective.

Denise O’Neil Green

Denise O’Neil Green

Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion

Given what it takes to create an office from the ground up, especially work of this nature, Farrah has done an excellent job launching this critical and important service for our students, faculty and staff.

Toni De Mello

Toni De Mello

Director, Human Rights Services

The support provided by the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education has been invaluable to Human Rights Services. We manage a process where we support complainants and respondents and this is often challenging. Having an independent office that supports survivors, regardless of whether or not they make a complaint is so important to students, staff and faculty. OSVSE works tirelessly (and at all hours) to do this.

Robyn Bidgood

Robyn Bidgood

Student Staff, Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education

Over the past year, Farrah has become one of my greatest role models. I came into this position not having much experience in educating students about sexual violence and consent. However her commitment to her work and ability to coach and provide support through various projects led to my greater understanding of this work and my overall success in this role. Farrah stimulated my interest in developing a greater understanding of how sexual violence affects our community and advocating for a safer campus through community care. I am so grateful to have had Farrah as a mentor and for providing me with a working environment that was enriching, open and supportive which is integral to this line of work.