For students heading to college in Sudbury, Ont., next month, sexual assault awareness and prevention will be top of mind.
In March 2016, the Ontario government passed legislation requiring all colleges and universities in the province to adopt stand-alone sexual assault policies by January of this year.
This is the first full school year that many will have these policies in place, and universities and colleges are making awareness and education a priority when students arrive back on campus in September.
"September is a critical time for us as our students return back to campus, so we have a number of initiatives...to ensure that we have a safe campus," said Alison De Luisa, associate vice president of student and employee development at Cambrian College.
Students will learn about consent, prevention
Cambrian College will be running a poster campaign with the slogan, "See something, here something = say something, seek help." The posters will promote the website — safe.cambriancollege.ca — which includes the school's sexual assault policy and resources for anyone who has experienced sexual violence.
Cambrian will also set up booths at the front entrance of the campus during the second week of school, to educate students about consent and sexual assault prevention.
Renee Hallee, director of student services at College Boreal, said her school will also educate students about consent and prevention during orientation activities. College Boreal will be working with Centre Victoria pour femmes to provide workshops and presentations throughout the year.
"During the year, we're doing workshops, we're presenting to the students," she said. "But we're going to push it a lot the first couple of weeks."
Awareness and education a priority for colleges
But De Luisa and Hallee both said colleges have been ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing sexual assault on and off campus.
College Boreal adopted a stand-alone policy in 2015, before the government mandate.
De Luisa said Cambrian developed a new policy that was approved by its Board of Governors in December in response to the legislation, but has had a sexual harassment policy and code of conduct in place for sometime.
"We've always known that we play a part in prevention and educating," De Luisa said.
French-language resources lacking
Some colleges still face challenges when it comes to education students about sexual violence, however. Halle said College Boreal often struggles to find material in French.
"In terms of availability of tools to do all of the awareness and prevention, because we're French, we are kind of disadvantaged," Hallee said. "The English-speaking colleges have kind of a pool of resources that we don't have, because it's not in our language."
Hallee said she would like for the school to produce its own material, but they just don't have the resources that other larger colleges have.
"It's hard for us to get the money and get the people to do those big projects."
Hallee said its important for the school to reach all of its students, so that they know what to do if they experience or witness sexual violence.
"One of my goals is to make sure that the students are so at ease with the process, that they won't be stuck by the process if something happens."