Review Offers Solutions to Prevent Sexual Assaults on Campus
For Immediate Release
Halifax, NS – Today, Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) released Student Safety in Nova Scotia: A Review of Student Union Policies and Practices to Prevent Sexual Violence. The independent Review includes 21 recommendations for student union programming and advocacy to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence and foster communities where students respect and support each other.
“Students are among the most vulnerable to sexual assault and it is absolutely unacceptable that so many are being sexually assaulted each year”, said StudentsNS Chair Amy Brierley. “This Review shows that student leadership is critical for changing the cultural dynamics that allow sexualized violence to happen and proposes concrete initiatives for our student unions.”
The Review’s most important finding is that consent is not well understood by students of all genders and this is critical in allowing many assaults to take place.
“We have to have more conversations about sex and consent and these conversations have to be better”, said Callie Lathem, Acadia Students’ Union Equity Officer and Chair of the Review’s steering committee. “Consent is more than ‘no means no’, it’s about giving and receiving a clear yes and communicating with your partner no matter if it’s the first time you’re having sex or you’ve been together for years.”
Other key Review findings include:
Alcohol is a high-risk factor for sexual assault due to its effects on potential perpetrators, victims and bystanders.
As many as 95% of campus sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances and are not reported.
Promising approaches identified in the review include bystander training that encourages community members to recognize vulnerability and look out for each other, programming to specifically build men’s understanding of consent and sexual assault, and targeted programming with student athletes and participants in fraternities or fraternity-like cultures.
StudentsNS will be launching a consent-awareness campaign on campuses across the province in early February. As well, a second independent Review of student union policies and practices around safe alcohol consumption is also being prepared. And StudentsNS and the Acadia Students’ Union will co-host a conference to coordinate further action on the Reviews’ recommendations in mid-March.
“This Review is setting the stage for significant sexual assault prevention work at student unions across Nova Scotia, providing advice not just to this year’s leaders, but also to cohorts well into the future”, said Brierley. “Our members are committed to considering the Review’s recommendations thoroughly and acting.”
The Review was launched in August with funding from the Province of Nova Scotia. The author, independent consultant Anne Martell, conducted 81 interviews with student union leaders, university staff and other health experts. The participating student unions at Acadia, CBU, the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture, the Mount, StFX and SMU, as well as the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, each nominated a steering committee member to provide oversight for the Review and the upcoming campaign.
The Review is available online at http://studentsns.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-01-12-sexual-assault-report-Final.pdf
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Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 38,452 Nova Scotia post-secondary students, including 87% of the university student population. Our members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.
For more information or questions, please contact:
Amy Brierley, StudentsNS Chair
Callie Lathem, Acadia Students’ Union Equity Officer
(C) 902 489 1659
StudentsNS Executive Director