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Music P.E.I. project aims to stop gender-based violence before it happens

Women sometimes find themselves turning down work because the environment is not safe, say the co-ordinators of the Ripple Effect project, a new initiative from Music P.E.I. that aims to stop gender-based violence in the workplace.  (Shutterstock - image credit)
Women sometimes find themselves turning down work because the environment is not safe, say the co-ordinators of the Ripple Effect project, a new initiative from Music P.E.I. that aims to stop gender-based violence in the workplace. (Shutterstock - image credit)

The organization representing musicians on P.E.I. has launched a new initiative to address gender-based violence in the industry.

The conversation was started by a single complaint but Carlie Howell, one of two co-ordinators of the Ripple Effect project, said it is a problem that has had serious impacts on many musicians.

"I've chosen not to take employment because the threat of violence exists," said Howell.

"When I speak out about these things, the number one feedback that I get is from other women and gender-queer people who write to me and say: I agree with everything you're saying, it's happened to me too, but if you speak out you won't get hired. And I'm really hoping we can break that code of silence."

For the Ripple Effect project, Music P.E.I. is working with Good Night Out Vancouver to present workshops focused on recognizing inappropriate behaviour and strategies for intervening.

An important aspect of successful intervention is recognizing how a situation is developing before it gets serious, said Rebecca Ford, also a co-ordinator on the project.

"We need to start stepping in sooner," said Ford.

"We don't have to be waiting until something really horrible happens. There's little things, like little jokes, little comments, small things that we all notice and we maybe have a gut reaction of 'maybe that shouldn't be happening.'"

Uncomfortable conversations

The conversations can be difficult, Ford and Howell acknowledge, particularly if there are employment opportunities on the line.

"If it's an employer or someone you work with in the industry we have to get comfortable with speaking up," said Ford.

"I know it's uncomfortable, but sometimes uncomfortable things are important."

Some staff at Music P.E.I. have already taken the workshop. There was some trepidation, said Howell, but they came out of it feeling better prepared to face difficult situations, and were surprised by how light Good Night Out Vancouver was able to make a heavy topic.

The provincial government has provided $25,000 in funding for the project. It runs until June, but part of the plan is to train local people to run the workshops so the process of cultural transformation can continue.