Autumn is a time of excitement for many young adults as they start their studies in post-secondary schools all across the country. But for some, the first year of school will leave a scar. On average, eight on-campus sexual assaults will occur within the first eight weeks of school. Sadly, 20-25% of undergraduate women report having been subjected to unwanted touching, kissing, or other sexual acts. A 2013 study of sexual assaults reported to the Ottawa hospital showed that 90 percent of victims voluntarily consumed alcohol or drugs, with 60 percent thinking they had been drugged. With such shocking statistics, what can we do to prevent you, your friends, or your children from becoming a victim? or the perpetrator?
- Talk about consent – what is it, why you need it, how to ask for it.
- Talk about drugs and alcohol – how they limit your judgment and can lead to high-risk behaviours.
- Engage men – most men are not perpetrators and can interrupt or prevent sexual assault.
- Educate about on-campus resources for victims – ensure students know where they can report the assault confidentially and be treated with care.
- Inform students of 24-hour emergency and other community resources – hotlines, local crisis centers, and counseling centers like SAFFRON.
Talking to students about cultivating a safe campus atmosphere will help change the statistics. We all have a role in shaping new attitudes and behaviours and maintaining a positive, healthy learning environment.