Story written for: The Eyeopener at Ryerson University
By Tiffany Mongu
Cordie Mundele went from being a victim, to a survivor to an overcomer. Now, she’s launched an online resource to provide support for survivors on their journey to healing.
Inspired by her Congolese roots, Mundele titled the website Centre Libikisi, which means “healing centre” in Lingala—a Bantu language mainly spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The site was launched on Aug. 31.
“The goal is to go from victim, a survivor, to a thriver, [by] acknowledging every step to close off the cycle of healing,” said Mundele.
Mundele added the centre is also meant to help survivors find allies and friends. “We believe in the power of collective understanding,” said Mundele. “We are going to create a community where allies find themselves.”
What Ryerson has achieved and what remains unattended
Many on-campus sexual assaults occur during the first eight weeks of classes, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.
In March 2019, the provincial government released the results of the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey, which found that around 23 per cent of Ryerson respondents had a non-consensual sexual experience while in university.
The survey found 68.2 per cent of Ryerson students who disclosed their experience of sexual violence to the school said they were satisfied or very satisfied with how the university responded.
However, a majority of Ryerson students said they do not know how to file a report or access sexual assault and violence support at the university. While Centre Libikisi isn’t a Ryerson-run service, students can immediately gain access to professionals and resources directly online.
The site is meant for sexual assault survivors, but anyone interested in improving their mental wellness may also use its services. Information about personal trainers, registered psychotherapists and dance and yoga instructors is also available on the site.
Bringing the initiative back home
Mundele is in progress of bringing her initiative to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her goal is to change how Congolese communities perceive sex, rape, rape culture and more.
Based on her experiences in her community, Mundele finds that a lot of individuals in the Congolese community are not fully aware or educated on topics regarding sexual trauma.
“We need to start the conversation,” said Mundele. “A lot of the times [when] I’ve talked to Congolese people what I found was that, they are not coming from a negative [or] bad place, it’s just that they’re not aware. They’re not educated on these topics.”
Congolese advocate Sandra Sassa also believes that Centre Libikisi is an essential platform for the Congolese community to acknowledge and change perceptions of sexual trauma.
“There is definitely a corporate generational trauma, that a lot of [people] put under the rug—nobody talks about it,” said Sassa.
“We see it in things like when a child is home, you’ll ask the child to dress a certain way because ‘tonton’ [an uncle] is coming…instead of worrying what type of person you’re letting in [your space].”
The benefit for students
Sis To Sis Toronto founder Teshyla Bailey said that in her personal experience, most sexual assault encounters occur while being away from home.
“Some of the people I’ve connected with, a lot of their experiences happened while they were at school,” said Bailey. “A lot of the violence and assaults that they’ve experienced was when they left home to be by themselves, at school.”
Students can benefit from Centre Libikisi simply because it’s online and free to sign up. From there an individual can begin to communicate or submit questions, concerns or comments anonymously.
Bailey says the centre can also help to reduce stigma. “Being online kind of removes that shame that someone might feel by having these conversations in person,” she said.