The “Microphone” Project: Using Music to Turn a Violent Sexual Assault into Education on Consent in PEI Schools

Written by Jenene Wolldridge, (WeavEast Fellow PEI)

Kinley Dowling grew up with parents as musicians. They were always listening to music and going to see concerts and playing concerts. She was playing violin in a rock band called Hey Rosetta!, for 10 years when a couple of years ago they decided to take a hiatus. She had been recording violin on other artists’ albums for years and decided (with the encouragement of a couple of friends) that she should write her own songs. She released a duo album with my cousin Liam Corcoran, and later recorded an album of my own songs. She had written a few and really enjoyed the experience. Her album was almost ready to start recording and she wrote this final song called ‘Microphone’. It was the fastest song she had ever written. It just poured out of her and through her pen. It didn’t take her long to write down all the feelings she had about this experience in her life, she had been thinking about it for 15 years.

She was raped at her high school prom party in a field. It really changed her. She had so many things she wanted to say but kept silent for years because she didn’t want to face the reality of what happened, even though dealing with it on her own...and it was slowly boiling up inside of her. One day she was so angry she sat down with pen and paper and this song which conveys what happened that night of the prom party, how she felt, and how she feels now just flowed right out of her. Since releasing the song into the world she has had close friends that have confided that a similar thing happened to them, and they really loved the way the song made them feel stronger. She felt very unsure of how people were going to react but now is so happy that the response has been so positive.

“I am so lucky to be friends with Jenna MacMillan, a film maker from PEI. She recorded me telling her exactly what happened in detail of the night of my prom. She loved the song I wrote and we decided to make a music video to go along with the song. She attached my 5 minute testimonial to the beginning of the music video. We, with our friend Maria Campbell, approached some people to see if it would be possible to get this music video available for schools to watch.”

What happened next was a miracle. After a lot of hard work from so many people on the task team from the Premier's Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention Youth Engagement Working Group and the PEI Board of Education, the music video is now the basis for four new modules on Consent, Sexual Assault, Gender Norms, and Bystander Roles. It is available for grade 9 Health classrooms across PEI.

https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/publications/microphone_project_module_1_consent_web.pdf (download Consent Module 1 of 4).

This is the best news that could have come from such a horrible incident. Kinley’s work is part of something that is going to change the future in a positive way.

“I have always been a feminist and since releasing this song my will to make the world safer and better for women and LGBTQ has only gotten stronger. I have learned that if you are honest with yourself, life is easier to live. Speaking out about what happened to me was the hardest but also the best thing I ever did in my life. I am so proud of PEI for adding these important new modules to the grade 9 curriculum. I hope in the future that other provinces across Canada will use them as well.”

Recently there was a story on CBC’s The National (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1FEgfzye8U&fbclid=IwAR2aMKSdyAN7L4wdMpMwbatTKmnN8RQSPXy7toHqihTrzIh7NBC2A75zc2k) about the song being in schools and the students seem to really appreciate what they’re learning, and they know that learning about consent is a very important life skill.

Kinley’s Inspiration:

  • Attiya Khan (whose incredible film “A Better Man” changed my life)

  • Rona Ambrose (lobbying to mandate sexual assault training in the Supreme Court of Canada)

“I was in the legislature on the day Rona Ambrose visited to help Jamie Fox promote a similar bill in PEI. It was passed in PEI. A first for Canada!” — Kinley Dowling, Singer/Songwriter