Interview with Ashley Bentley on Comics with a Cause and Sexual Assault Support Centre
Ashley Bentley is the assistant manager of the sexual assault support centre. What does her work have to do with comics? Her centre is working with Rodrigo Caballero's non-profit project "Comics with a Cause: Speaking Up On Violence Against Women." Find out more about "Comic with a Cause" and Bentley's role in the Centre and the project.
Me: You are the assistant manager of a sexual assault support centre in Vancouver. What does that job entail exactly?
Ashley Bentley: My role entails a variety of tasks. I provide short term emotional support to survivors of sexual assault and violence as well as advocacy and victim services support when needed. A huge part of what we do at The SASC is raising awareness of sexual assault on campus, and so a big part of my job is to construct and facilitate education around sexual assault, consent and related topics. I also manage the volunteer program and outreach at The SASC and share coordinating the centre with the manager.
Me: Why did you decide to become an assistant manager of a sexual assault support centre?
Bentley: I have always had a desire to help and support people whilst having a feminist, anti oppression perspective. I became interested in the topic and did a lot of crisis volunteer work with sexual assault survivors, mental health and marginalized populations. I think that The SASC is an integral part of UBC and that it is so important to support, empower and educate folks who are dealing with trauma regarding violence. Sexual assault statistically impacts folks most often between the ages of 15-24, which is the main age demographic of this campus. I think it is important work that we do here and I am happy to be a part of the centre.
Me: How would you describe what "Comics with a Cause" is?
Bentley: Comics for a cause is a web comic series which raises awareness of sexual assault. The first issue Branded is a comic which explores myths and facts around sexual assault through a narrative looking at younger people. For more info have a look here
Me: How did you become involved with "Comics with a Cause?"
Bentley: Rodrigo who is the coordinator of the project approached The SASC for resources and information. It was a great opportunity to work with him and his team to really give a perspective from anti violence workers doing front line work. Since then we have promoted the innovative project and look forward to Branded's completion.
Me: What do you do for "Comics with a Cause?"
Bentley: As mentioned before we have provided resources and information to Rodrigo as well as some funding from the Sexual Assault Initiatives Fund. We will continue to promote and support the project and hope that it can be used within UBC as a great education piece.
Me: Has your centre ever worked/supported a comic book project like this before?
Bentley: I have worked for the centre for 7 months but to my knowledge The SASC has not worked with a comic book project before. To my knowledge in anti violence work a project like this has not been done before so I am really excited to see the reactions from folks who access the comic.
Me: What is your opinion of the comic book medium?
Bentley: I think that it is a really innovative medium to present the topic of sexual assault. Sexual assault and violence can be a difficult topic to discuss, and I think that comic books can be a more approachable and accessible medium.
Me: How do you think this project will benefit women?
Bentley: I think that the project will benefit all survivors of violence, not just women. At the centre we are aware that sexual assault is a gendered crime in nature with women usually being the victim of the crime, however everyone experiences violence and sexual assault. I think that the comic book medium is a great way of not focusing on a single gender and I think that it will provide vital education about sexual assault and consent. Some folks don't respond to a pamphlet or a workshop and so this comic is really a great way of accessing folks who need that information.
Me: What do you hope people will take away from comics created by "Comic with a Cause," like Branded?
Bentley: I hope that folks will take away knowledge of what sexual assault and consent is and how to not be victim blaming. We live in a culture where myths and facts about sexual assault permeate and survivors are continually scrutinized for what they wear, how much they drink and their behavior. No one invites sexual assault, what we need to look at is why people are committing sexual assault and how can we prevent it as a society. Education is a powerful tool, and Branded
will hopefully bring that education through a fun medium.
Me: If people are interested in contacting your centre for help or getting help in general for sexual assault, how can they do so?
Bentley: The Sexual Assault Support Centre at UBC can be accessed in several ways. You can drop by the centre at any time for support and information or call/email to make an appointment. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. We serve students, staff, faculty, family, friends, and partners of survivors. We are available to folks of all genders within the UBC community and beyond. For more information on the programs we offer and how to contact us, go to our website www.gotconsent.ca
Me: Thank you for your time Ms. Bentley! If you're interested in "Comics with a Cause," we'll be talking with the creator of Branded and a major player of "Comics with a Cause" Rodrigo Caballero next time. Also check out Branded on brandedthecomic.com.