News / Halifax

New report suggests ways to curb sexual violence on Nova Scotia's university campuses

The report presented in Halifax on Friday provides 10 recommendations for universities

Guest speakers during the presentation of the ‘Changing the Culture of Acceptance’ report in Halifax on Friday.

Yvette d'Entremont

Guest speakers during the presentation of the ‘Changing the Culture of Acceptance’ report in Halifax on Friday.

Authors of a report that outlines 10 recommendations to help curb sexual violence on Nova Scotia’s university campuses are calling it “a clear path forward.”

The ‘Changing the Culture of Acceptance’ report was presented to stakeholders and media on Friday during an official unveiling at NSCAD’s Port Campus in Halifax.

“At the end of the day students should be able to study and learn in an environment that is free from fear of sexual violence,” said Dianne Taylor-Gearing, co-chair of the committee and president of NSCAD.

“These recommendations will help us to achieve that.”

The report was developed over a seven month period by the Sexual Violence Prevention Committee.

That committee included student groups, universities, community agencies and government representatives. It was created as part of the 2015-19 memorandum of understanding between the provincial government and Nova Scotia’s universities.

“This report serves as an important resource for our universities, and although it was produced specifically for them, its value extends to every community and every household across the province,” Taylor-Gearing said.

She told the crowd that 20 to 25 per cent of university students are survivors of sexual assault, but the number of unreported incidents mean that percentage is much higher.

“We explored the many complexities of sexual violence in the development of our recommendations, like the disproportionately higher rates of incidents involving women, women of colour, Indigenous women, lesbian and bisexual women, trans women and women with a disability,” Taylor-Gearing said.

“We examined the influence of power and privilege, and the many systems of oppression including gender inequity, racism, colonialism, heterosexism and ableism.”

Nicole Wamboldt, research coordinator with Students Nova Scotia and an Acadia University student, was on hand to lend her support to the report’s 10 recommendations.

“We believe these recommendations form a strong first step to drastically changing both the conversation and the culture of sexual violence on post secondary campuses,” she said.

Labour and advanced education minister Labi Kousoulis assured those present “this will not be a report that sits on the shelf.”

Some of the recommendations outlined in the report include:

•the delivery of consent education

•training for the campus community on responding to sexual violence disclosures

•the establishment of sexual violence prevention advisory committees

•the development of a Nova Scotia-specific bystander education program

Johanna Black, bystander intervention coordinator with the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, said work on the bystander education progam had already begun.

Since May, her centre has been working with a committee that includes representatives from each of the province’s universities and the NSCC to create a new bystander training curriculum that is relevant to the Nova Scotian experience.

The goal of bystander training is to take the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of survivors and to encourage everyone to take an active role in ending sexual violence,” she explained.

“We shouldn’t have to say ‘me too.’ Our communities should instead be proclaiming loudly and in unison ‘no more.’”

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