Experiential Voices National Knowledge Gathering on Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking

Inspiring and humbling today to participate in this unique gathering of experiential sex trafficking survivors from across Canada, and deeply touched and honoured to be presented by the grandmothers with a medicine pouch and to learn that my work is being read and appreciated much more widely than I realized. It is demoralizing to learn how our brothers and sisters have been hurt, and it could have been any of us; we need to stand together for a better Canada.

 CIn collaboration with community partners in Manitoba, Ontario, and British Columbia, Clan Mothers Healing Village is hosting the first ever Experiential Voices National Knowledge Gathering. You as individuals are the experts with knowledge to collaboratively lead the way forward. We will be inviting culturally diverse persons as well as 2SLGBTQQIA survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation to participate in this experiential-led project. The summit will take place a short distance from Winnipeg, Manitoba, from March 19-21, 2019. For far too long our Indigenous communities have been caught in a never-ending cycle of temporary fixes pertaining to our history of intergenerational trauma. We are taking a stance against the colonial approach which has affected all people, giving voices back to those who are the leaders of change – people with lived experience. We are opening this gathering to experiential persons that have exited the sex trade or who have been involved in sex trafficking and are currently contributing their knowledge as leaders in the field of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Our goal is to capture the expertise of lived experience leaders. This is to allow for real, meaningful change to happen. The gathering will offer a gentle spiritual ceremonial aspect led by Elders and experiential persons. A critical component of the project consists of digital interviews to be collected and distributed in accessible ways to privilege the voices of experiential persons who, for too long, have felt unheard. The project’s main objective is to exemplify a representative model of lived experienced leadership to maximize and guide priorities and policies across Canada and beyond. Finally, there is an important outcome piece of this gathering: an on-line digital media book and film that will be developed and designed to emphasis and ensure that the expertise of people with lived experience in the sex trade will have far-reaching, real-life impacts to inform concrete changes moving forward. 

Not Perfect

Here is my anti-sexist rant. Ed Sheeran’s song “Perfect”, rubs me wrong every time I hear the line, “I don’t deserve it, but you look perfect tonight”, I’m bothered that this popular song reaches millions with a sexist message, inferring that someone should “look perfect”, disregarding that she might be smart, driven, and skilled. Is it just me or is this an incredibly sexist message affecting peoples’ perspective on gender and relationships?

Violence: Analysis, Intervention and Prevention

What an honour, and stimulating experience this evening, presenting and leading a discussion on violence analysis, intervention and prevention for PhD Peace and Conflict students from five diverse countries, for Dr. Sean Byrne at the Mauro Center for Peace and Justice, University of Manitoba.

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Do you have an academic side hustle?

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“Side hustle?”, I asked, as a younger work colleague mentioned hers. I learned it’s a new-age term, common among millennials. Times are tough, cost of living is high, and everyone has an extra job, a “side hustle” for extra income and, I presume, for experience and networking. I realized I’ve had multiple side hustles throughout my career, most recently volunteering on non-profit boards, and my graduate studies which have now morphed into a writing career.

Since finishing my dissertation, well actually long before, I’ve stewed about how to maximize my impact with this PhD; what social good can I do? Still in public service, now in my 30thyear of policing, I find myself fully engaged in a side career of writing and teaching, with guest lectures and courses, and a continuous cycle of research, writing, peer review, revision, and publication- all in my spare time. I guess it is the work ethic, curiosity and work habits I gained through years of grad studies, while maintaining my policing profession and doing my part at home, raising four kids. The drive has not been a problem; having quit school early and returning later in life to further my education, I’ve cherished the opportunity to work and learn, but I’ve often reflected on how much the education and publishing work helps or hinders my day job. The other bigger question is where I can get the best impact with my PhD credential and academic work. Should I move into academe or stay in the front line? I’ve come to realize that I have an academic career, as a side hustle. Should I continue my grassroots and frontline work, in policing or elsewhere, and continue pursuing academics on the side? Or should I seek a full-time professor role?

As a pracademic, a frontline practitioner with some academic skills- seeking praxis of my work- it feels fulfilling to publish and raise awareness about issues in my profession and community. My first book and all of my articles have influenced decision makers and practitioners in the far corners of the world- I know because they cite my work, and occasionally they tell me; those interactions are highly rewarding and inspiring. At the same time, I wonder where I can get the best bang for my efforts; for example, I’ve put a lot of effort into publishing in scholarly journals, but I’ve come to prefer open access journals that allow me to freely share the work and spread the word farther. Sometimes professional magazines and news pieces get much broader distribution, so they do a lot more to further my personal goals, of affecting some good by moving the public discourse on social issues; sometimes they inform decisions by difference makers in the community. So, I wonder what more I can do with this potential power of writing.

Of course, as a closet academic- I did some research on the question of whether my PhD serves the community and my work better inside or outside of academe. One of the volunteers in my office calls me “Doctor Bob Cop”, which highlights that in some people’s eyes I’ve become somewhat of a goyim (Yiddish for someone outside the community), a label I’m happy to bare because it also connotes, in my mind, breaking away from the pack with some unique accomplishments. But where best to use these new skills? My cursory research on the academic vs. practitioner role finds that the vast majority of published articles on the topic quickly move to the question of where the better jobs are. This is likely the question foremost on most people’s minds; analyzing whether pursuing the PhD or master’s degree is worth the effort- for job getting. I was in the opposite, and fortunate position of having my career already set, and doing graduate and post-graduate studies mainly for self fulfilment. But it still leaves the question of where to get the better bang for my efforts- (1) in the workforce and publishing as a side hustle, or (2) seeking to go head and heals into academic career. Some have written about the potentially stifling university bureaucracy that comes with professor jobs. The opposite side of that problem is the limited time available for research and writing while maintaining a 40 hours per week non-academic job. Some even argue that working in academe leaves little time for many, for research and writing, as teaching is highly labour and time demanding.

The other question about pursuing higher education is whether it’s worth the effort in relation to career advancement or rewards. In some professions higher education results in almost automatic advancement, or at least meets requirements for advancement. In other professions, not so much. In those cases, one must dig deep for motivation, because they are not likely to find it in the job. Some professions, like policing, are in a period of change over recent decades- so higher education is appreciated more by some than others, and achieving an advanced degree may or may not help one’s career. I’ve often said that the moment people ask me how the education helped my career- that I knew they don’t really understand it. The prospect of a promotion could not motivate me to do what I put myself through to complete the PhD. At the same time, I have to say, my education has improved my job skills on every level. More importantly it has enriched my life far beyond anything I could conceive of before I began. So, wherever my career takes me, regardless of what I am doing, I will always have my academic side hustle. How about you?