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Lethbridge students among those advocating for provincial sexual violence policy

Lethbridge students among those advocating for provincial sexual violence policy
A new study released by the Council of Alberta University Students has its members asking for more emphasis on sexual violence policies from the provincial government. Demi Knight reports.

It’s an issue students in Lethbridge say is far too prevalent, and they’re demanding action on a provincial level to combat sexual violence on campuses across Alberta.

The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) released a 66-page research paper outlining the changes they believe the provincial government should make to combat the issue.

“It’s student-led and survivor-led and research-based and it’s very unique to Alberta,” said Bailey Harray, a fifth-year student at the University of Lethbridge and vice-chair of CAUS.

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READ MORE: ‘It’s far more prevalent than we know’: Lethbridge sexual abuse survivor

Between 2016 and 2019, 17 cases of sexual assault were reported at the University of Lethbridge. It’s a number Harray said could be much higher as many sexual assaults go unreported.

She said putting a blanket provincial policy in place and creating more resources may help more survivors come forward.

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“Having a provincial policy for every post-secondary [school] means that every post-secondary is held to the same basis,” Harray said.

“Then also the post-secondary institutions that don’t have the personnel or the ability to follow the policy has the government to fall back on.”

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University of Lethbridge updates sexual violence policy
University of Lethbridge updates sexual violence policy

The study offers five recommendations for safer campuses including funding for on-site specialists and online courses covering the basics of bystander intervention, which Harray said is a proactive approach to the issue.

“It’s so important to know what to do and to feel empowered to intervene. Because even when it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, it is,” she said.

“Having those bystander programs in place will definitely alleviate some issues and make survivors feel more empowered to come forward.”

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READ MORE: New centre in Lethbridge to offer support to victims of sexual violence

In June of 2018, the University of Lethbridge implemented a sexual violence policy with the aim of having a better process for complaints and investigations, as well as emphasizing the university’s role in supporting victims.

But Kathleen Massey, the associate vice-president (student) with the University of Lethbridge, said there’s always room for improvement.

“Our sexual violence educator is currently working on creating online modules that can be delivered to and accessed by anyone on campus,” Massey said.

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“I think this will be very important for us and if we had more collaboration and support in this area then I think it would be an excellent outcome.”

Members of CAUS are working with the province to move forward with their ideas.

In an emailed statement, the Government of Alberta said: “sexual violence is a far too common occurrence in our province and on our campuses.”

“Minister [of Advanced Education Demetrios] Nicolaides and Minister [Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela] Aheer are committed to continuing to work with students to determine best practices and solutions to ultimately work toward the prevention of sexual violence on campus.”