Sexual violence in the spotlight

Supplied photo

UOIT continues to spread awareness about sexual violence.

UOIT has launched another phase in its attempt to spread awareness about sexual violence. It’s a new student program called upstander training, according to special projects manger, Miles Bowman.

Sexual violence has recently been in the spotlight due to the many on-going cases in the media. These include the Jian Ghomeshi trials, the allegations of over fifty women coming forward on sexual assault and or rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, and pop star Kesha’s injunction against her producer, Dr. Luke on sexual abuse allegations.

With UOIT’s development of future initiatives for students to get involved in, Durham College campaigns like ‘Yes Means Yes, and both currently in the process of creating a new sexual violence policy for the campus, both schools are focused on have been spreading sexual violence awareness actively this year.

Part of that awareness includes the new training program for students. It started earlier this month and was developed by UOIT’s Student Life Division.

It is still in the pilot phase, according to Bowman. The upstander training is based on similar ‘bystander training’ programs at U.S universities that help raise awareness about helping others out of unsafe situations. But it is still in the pilot phase, according to Bowman. It is called upstander training, based on U.S similar universities ‘bystander training’ programs, which help raise awareness of helping behaviours and increase motivation to help others out in unsafe situations. When it is ready it will be offered to students as part of the university’s sexual assault policy changes, according to Bowman.

“The training is a style of education that can allow individuals who have experience the program to later lead other groups as they learn,” he said.

Many people are familiar with the No Means No campaign in Canada, which started 20 years ago. It was created by the Canadian Federation of Students to raise awareness around sexual assault, rape, etc. But, Bowman said this campaign is actually ineffective.

“Men are told don’t, but end up tuning it out,” he said. “We want to bring them into the conversation.” He was hired specifically to create the new sexual violence policy.

This sparked the campus to join a campaign called, Yes Means Yes. This campaign aims to create conversations about positive relationships for youth, including identifying things like consent. On campuses, the word consent needs constant clarification, according to Allison Hector-Alexander,  manager of Durham College’s diversity office.

“Consent is really the essence of the conversation because it is the absence of consent that leads to sexual violence,” said Hector-Alexander, who worked at a Toronto shelter working with domestic violence survivors before coming to Durham College.

She said the slogan for the campaign is, “one saying that kind of reminds people they do have a choice around consent.”

There are 460, 000 sexual assaults in Canada per year, and out of every 1000 only 33 are reported to the police, according to the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centre.

Statistics show many incidents just don’t get reported.

Tom Lynch, director of campus safety said, “I am positive when I say a vast majority of our students feel safe on campus.” But the statistics show many incidents just don’t get reported.

Last March, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced her government’s three-year plan to battle sexual violence in Canada. Part of this plan requires colleges and universities to adopt sexual assault policies, if one wasn’t in place, with clear complaint procedures and protocols.

The last revision of the policy implemented for both the college and university was in April 2015, but many people, including Lynch, agree it needs some refreshing.

“It was more offender based,” said Lynch. “What does that do? That addresses only the 5 per cent of people that do come forward.”

Jarred Cacnio, student development specialist, who has already taken a look at the first drafts of the policy, said it’s a bit of a process.

“We want to make sure everyone is included, everyone’s perspectives are shared,” Cacnio said.

The Wynne government’s deadline for institutions to refresh their sexual violence policies is September of this year, but Bowman is hoping to have it in place before then.

As much as we can change policies and laws, it is the conversations about sexual violence that ultimately make the difference, according to Bowman. It’s also important things to remind students is that the school is a community, according to Lynch.

“Campus safety is everyone’s business,” he said. “We have 40,000 student eyes watching. Don’t be a bystander, stand up.”

Previous articleThe steps, the risks, the rewards of filing taxes
Next articleAre blood deferrals discriminatory?
Nicole O'Brien is a second year journalist student at Durham College. She enjoys writing about the campus, entertainment and sports for The Chronicle. Her work can also be seen on her entertainment blog, and also on the lifestyle blog Godigio. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys watching movies and listening to music. She hopes to one day work for an entertainment news network on either radio or television.