Student leaders tackle consent, sexual assault during orientation

WATCH ABOVE: From chanting songs about having sex with underage girls to misogynistic Facebook posts, sexualized violence has been an issue at universities in the Maritimes for the last few years. With a new semester starting, students themselves are hoping to make a difference. Global’s Natasha Pace reports.

HALIFAX–  It’s move in day at universities across our region.

Tens of thousands of students are returning to campus or settling in for the first time. Student leaders at the University of Kings College in Halifax are hoping to open the discussion about an important topic right away: consent.

“In order to work towards consent culture at universities across the province, students have come together to say no means no, and we need to be talking about consent during orientation week,” said Michaela Sam, Canadian Federation of Students, Nova Scotia.

Buttons and stickers being circulated by the Canadian Federation of Students. Natasha Pace/Global News

Sam is helping to spread the word about consent and rape culture on university campuses with a new initiative.

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“Right now students here at the University of Kings College are collecting signatures on a postcard in support of Bill 114, the safer universities and colleges act, which will help to combat sexual violence on campuses this fall,” she said.

Michaela Sam speaks to new students about consent. Natasha Pace/Global News

Next door to Kings, at Dalhousie University a new Sexual Assault and Harassment Phone Line officially launched at noon on Sunday.

The phone line will be confidential and offer peer-to-peer listening and information for those who feel they have experienced gender-based or sexualized violence or harassment.

The launch date for the new phone line was chosen to coincide with orientation at the university.

“There will be a bunch of new students on campus that day and sexual assault is actually the highest in the first eight weeks of school,” said coordinator Rebecca Rose.

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The line will be staffed by forty volunteers and one member of the Dalhousie Student Union.

“It’s mostly the volunteers that will make the phone line run. We have volunteers that are Dal students, Kings Students, students from other institutions, we have folks with social work backgrounds and experience on phone lines and sexual assault centres,” Rose tells Global News.

The phone line is only a pilot project – slated to end in October.

Organizers say the campus needs a sexual assault phone line year round and are hoping to make it a permanent option for students.

“After the pilot project, we are hoping we can get some funding to continue it. We will be approaching the university for sure and if the university is not going to fund it then we will be looking elsewhere for funding,” said Rose.


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