Feds announce $200K for sexual violence prevention at N.S. universities
'When we collaborate, we're all showing that we take the issue seriously'
As university students return to Nova Scotia for another school year, academic institutions are looking at how to better address and prevent sexualized violence on their campuses.
In 2016, the province mandated that all universities needed to have a standalone sexual violence policy within three years.
Now, each university in the province and NSCC have these policies in place.
"Universities are really looking at how they can heighten awareness around the issue and how they can identify to both potential victims and potential perpetrators that they take the issue seriously and that it's not going to be tolerated," said Jackie Stevens, executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, which is Halifax's only sexual assault centre.
She said addressing sexualized violence shouldn't fall on one organization.
"When we collaborate, we're all showing that we take the issue seriously and we're all doing something about it," she said.
Several schools have partnered with Halifax Regional Police and Avalon to empower bystanders to address sexual violence.
On Wednesday morning, MP Sean Fraser announced the federal government is providing $200,000 over two years for the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association to go toward a program that teaches students across Nova Scotia how to intervene as bystanders and support victims.
"This has proven to be a very successful and important program for preventing sexual violence and making college and university campuses safer places for all," said executive director Wyanne Sandler in a news release.
"This funding will ensure the sustainability of the program by allowing us to continue to build capacity at each of the institutions involved across the province."
How King's is responding
Some schools have created specific jobs on campus to address these issues, such as the new sexualized violence prevention and response officer at the University of King's College in Halifax.
Jordan Roberts, who started in the role on Aug. 9, has been busy training orientation week leaders, residence advisers and student patrol members since starting the job, but she also works with faculty and staff on campus who may need support.
She said it's an important role that should be at every post-secondary institution.
"Sexualized violence is present in every community," said Roberts. "But with universities in particular, we do see a number of young people leaving home and coming to live and study and work, away from their communities, away from their families, away from their friends for the first time."
"And that creates a sense of vulnerability that I think needs a lot of response and support."
Stevens said while there's been a shift in how post-secondary institutions take responsibility around sexual violence, students have identified some gaps, such as better access to therapeutic counselling on campus.
"There always is more that can be done and should be done," Stevens said.