According to a CBC report, more than 700 sexual assaults were reported by Canadian universities over the past five years.
The same report shows that one in three women will experience some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime.
Jan Byrd, executive director of Wellness and Student Life at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), has helped bring the Upstander Education seminar to the U of W. She recognized there was no sexual assault policy on campus and helped to create a support network for survivors.
Byrd says the seminar aims to teach students that if they see something that looks like harassment, they can help someone out of a terrible situation.
“We know that often if people see something we’re worried about, like if someone’s being harassed at a bar … people want to do the right thing, but they’re not sure what to do,” Byrd says. “We want to teach people, ‘Yes, you do have the skills.’”
Byrd says they don’t have any hard data on how many assaults have been prevented from this new policy but can state the response has been positive. The goal is to bring in more young advocates to reach more students.
Deanna England is a graduate studies officer helping with a similar program for students who have graduated. She says that a lot of grad students help out professors, and they need to be ready if a student discloses a sexual assault to them.
“We felt that a lot of grad students would be TAs and lab assistants, (and) they are seen more as a peer,” England says. “They’re in a position where they’ll receive disclosures, so we’re training them on how to proceed should someone come forward.”
The seminar will talk about sexual violence, the importance of consent, how alcohol can affect someone’s ability to give consent and will go over techniques for helping someone out of a dangerous, potentially violent situation.
Byrd says if someone notices any signs that another person might be in trouble, the seminar will teach you some non-confrontational ways to check in and make sure everything is okay.
“Sometimes what we teach people to do is that if you’re worried about someone, pretend they’re a friend. Say ‘Hey, I’ve got to talk to you, come here, haven’t seen you for so long!’ And it gets that person out of the situation,” Byrd says.
The seminar will also go over body language, teaching students how to look for cues that would indicate that someone is uncomfortable and possibly looking for a way out of a dangerous situation.
The Upstander Education Seminar will take place on Jan. 30 at 12:30 p.m. in room 3C34. Students can email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.