In just a few days, thousands of students will be flooding back to campuses across the region. A new school year can be an exciting time for students, with many returning, while others are settling in for the first time.
With school right around the corner, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre has teamed up with Halifax Regional Police, Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University, University of King’s College and NSCC to promote a new campaign called “Draw the Line.”
“We’ve been focusing on collaborative initiatives more over the years because we recognize sexualized violence affects everyone, and is everyone’s responsibility,” said Jackie Stevens, the executive director for the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.
It’s that idea — that prevention is everybody’s responsibility — that is at the core of the campaign.
“The reason sexualized violence continues to happen is because people who aren’t committing sexualized violence don’t do anything to stop people who are,” said Stevens.
The campaign, which originated in Ontario, aims to equip bystanders with the tools and information needed to get involved and work to prevent sexualized violence.
For the most part, it will be rolled out on social media, but it will also include other elements, with some schools incorporating the campaign in orientation activities.
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At King’s College, the campaign rollout coincides with the hiring of their first-ever sexualized violence prevention and response officer.
Jordan Roberts is the first person to hold the title and says her role will in part focus on prevention, but she will also be working with anyone who comes forward and wants to go through the formal reporting process.
“I’m here to help them navigate that,” said Roberts.
Roberts will also be helping to promote the Draw the Line Campaign which she says is especially important as the new school year gets underway.
“Statistically, on campus we know the most incidents of sexualized violence are going to happen in the first six weeks of school,” she said.
“So it’s a really integral time to try and get that messaging out, get those supports out and get the conversation started.”
Last year in Halifax, 655 sexual assaults were reported to regional police, nearly double what was reported in 2013.
Police point to recent historical investigations as part of the spike and also link the spike to campaigns similar to “Draw the Line,” such as the “#MeToo” movement, which have encouraged more people to come forward.