University of Windsor workshop aims to end sexual assault

The University of Windsor is trying to stop sexual assaults before they start by hosting hosting workshops focusing on identifying potentially dangerous situations.

Bringing in the Bystander focuses on preventing sexual assaults before they happen

According to workshop coordinator Dusty Johnstone, most victims and perpetrators of sexual violence are between the ages of 14 and 24. (Gerard Donnelly/University of Windsor)

The University of Windsor is trying to stop sexual assaults before they start.

It's hosting workshops called Bringing in the Bystander. It shows how people can intervene if they spot a potentially dangerous situation.

Dusty Johnstone, a post-doctoral teaching fellow at the university, conducts some of the workshops.

Bringing in the Bystander was developed at the University of New Hampshire and brought to Windsor by Anne Forrest and Charlene Fenn.

Johnstone said the focus is to get people to safely and productively intervene before a situation escalates to something inappropriate or criminal.

"The approach we take isn’t targeting people as potential victims or perpetrators. The bystander focus is central to what we’re trying to do, getting people thinking about their connectedness to others in the community," she said.

Johnstone said people should look for things such as inappropriate jokes and name calling, but also situations that can lead to coerced sex or rape.

"There are a lot of situations where physical risk isn’t a concern," Johnstone said, noting cat calls and rape jokes.

Johnstone said that there is sex violence on campuses across North America, including the University of Windsor.

According to Johnstone, most victims and perpetrators of sexual violence are between the ages of 14 and 24.

Johnstone said people need "practice" at identifying potentially dangerous situations.

She said most people "don’t want to create a scene by making an assumption is happening where maybe it’s not."

"But you have a right to live in a safe community. You have a right to check in. The worst case scenario is that nothing is going on," Johnstone said. "The worst case scenario is a little bit of embarrassment but you could prevent someone from being hurt."

Nathan Connel is a student who took the workshop last year.

"For instance if I see a woman cornered in a bar by a guy, I might try to get close to listen in, to see if the female is uncomfortable, and if she is, I could diffuse the situation by making it awkward, you could spill a drink nearby or on the guy, and say 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that,'" Connel said.

Johnstone has partnered with different faculties at the university to incorporate the workshop into their curriculum. Faculties include psychology, criminology and business.

Johnstone said business leaders need to know how to identify problems within their workplaces.

The workshops start Monday night and run for two weeks.


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