April 23, 2024

New position created to co-ordinate training and community resources addressing sexual and gender-based violence 

Pilot reflects UCalgary policy commitment to improve safety and supporting a culture of consent and respect 
A watercolored painting with two birds flying in it

Responding to a recent survey on sexual and gender-based violence in Alberta post-secondaries, the University of Calgary has hired a new sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) community resource and training co-ordinator as a pilot under UCalgary’s Sexual and Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Office.

Dr. Souheir Jamil, PhD, and office staff, along with the Provost’s Office and Student Enrolment Services, will oversee efforts to improve safety and support people experiencing SGBV — which has been identified by the World Health Organization and Government of Canada as a public health issue — through trainings and other initiatives.

The new position, funded in part by the Government of Alberta, was created in response to results of the Alberta Post-Secondary Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Survey, released by Advanced Education.

The findings from this survey indicate that, of those surveyed, 50 per cent reported experiencing some form of sexual or gender-based violence as a post-secondary student, with sexual harassment identified as the most common form. The Alberta survey received a total response rate of 12,948 respondents, representing a response rate of 5.8 per cent of the provincial student body. UCalgary’s portion of the survey received a total of 1,675 responses, a response rate of 3.5 per cent.

This type of violence is an area of research that is hard to reach large sample sizes, says Meg Martin, BA’11, MC’16, as the topic is incredibly stigmatizing. The manager of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Support Office adds, “Sexual and gender-based violence is also under-reported globally, and is still the only type of violence that hasn’t seen decreases in prevalence.”

The survey results line up with others conducted by Statistics Canada and the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services. These latest findings provide UCalgary and other post-secondaries with direction on how to make their environments and communities safe and respectful for everyone.

Key priorities for the new co-ordinator include working closely with campus partners, including student, faculty, and staff groups on events and initiatives related to creating a trauma-responsive and consent-based campus culture, and increasing awareness of the impact of sexual and gender-based violence. This position will promote inclusion by focusing on outreach, consultation, and relationship building with campus stakeholders who represent populations that may experience sexual violence disproportionately.

“By building capacity in these areas, the university is more able to offer the training needed for our community, and to offer support that recognizes that diverse lived experiences and needs of community members who experience sexual and gender-based violence,” says Martin.

Student beliefs reflect the reality of SGBV

UCalgary’s institutional results further highlighted the work that has been accomplished by the university to address SGBV since adopting its Sexual and Gender Based Violence Policy in 2017. This policy commits to building and supporting a culture of consent and respect. Intended to be updated every three years, it began a formal review process last October that will include consultation with community.

Most students who disclosed experiences of sexual violence to a person on campus expressed feeling believed and supported, and most students surveyed felt UCalgary is dedicated to building a safer environment and takes the issue of SGBV seriously.

“Shifting community attitudes and beliefs to be supportive of those who experience SGBV is key to addressing and preventing SGBV,” says Martin. “These results indicate progress toward this goal, and the addition of the co-ordinator position will enable us to move further toward our goal of a respectful, consent-based and trauma-informed campus.”

Areas for improvement in addressing SGBV noted

The climate survey results highlight opportunities at UCalgary to close the gap on SGBV prevention and support. This includes advancing awareness of supports and services available, enhancing those supports, and building the understanding of topics around consent and SGBV, including the relationship between substance-use and consent, victim-blaming based on sexual history, jokes and communication that are harmful, how to intervene as a bystander, responding to a disclosure of SGBV and how to report SGBV.

UCalgary offers training and support in many of these areas, including bystander intervention training offered by the Student Conduct Office, and Ask First, an awareness campaign offered through the Women’s Resource CentreTrainings around responding to SGBV disclosures have been ongoing since March and will continue into the spring. More SGBV training will be offered in the future, thanks to funding from the UCalgary Students’ Union and Government of Alberta.

If you think you have experienced sexual or gender-based violence, or know someone who has, visit the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Support website for campus and community resources. You can also arrange a confidential consultation with the university’s sexual and gender-based violence support advocate, Paula Russel, by confidential email.

The Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Support Office is located in Mac Hall, 488 MSC, and operates Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The team can be contacted with any inquiries at svsa@ucalgary.ca.

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