News / Vancouver

UBC grad students training ‘active bystanders’ to stand up to sexual assault and harassment

UBC’s Graduate Student Society launches Active Bystander Program to train students when and how to intervene when they see sexual harassment on campus.

University of British Columbia's Vancouver campus.

Metro File

University of British Columbia's Vancouver campus.

Students at the University of British Columbia are taking it upon themselves to weed out rape culture and intervene during incidents of sexual assault and harassment.

The university’s Graduate Student Society launched its Active Bystander Program on Wednesday, which is designed to train students on when and how to intervene when they come across a potential incident.

So far, the program has trained 13 volunteer students to become facilitators that will lead workshops and training sessions with other students.

Society president Gen Cruz told Metro the program was born out of the desire of grad students to do something after a series of sexual assaults on campus in the past year and stories of similar offences throughout North American universities.

“When news broke about the sexual assault cases, I think a lot of people found the situation familiar and not unusual,” said Cruz. “Since then, people have become more vocal and want to address this.”

Active bystander programs have been cropping up on university campuses across the continent, Cruz said.

In the program, students learn to understand the social elements that allow sexual assault to exist, how to identify situations when they witness it and are taught tactics on how to intervene.

 “This is a way to empower students in uncomfortable situations, so they can say what is OK and what is not OK,” said Cruz.

The program will compliment UBC’s official policy on sexual assault, which is in the process of being finalized.

Though currently slated to run through 2016, Cruz hopes the program picks up enough interest to continue into the future.

More on