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Helping prevent sexual violence

A dedicated group of students has begun teaching hundreds of their peers about what they can do to recognize and help prevent sexual violence.

"Sexual Violence Bystander Intervention facilitators pose for a group photo"
This year’s team of Sexual Violence Bystander Intervention facilitators recently spent a weekend receiving skill development training. The team includes, front row: Nadia Mahdi (Artsci’19); Charlotte Johnston (Ed’18); Cam Yung (Artsci’18), Ramna Safeer (Artsci’18), Mackenzie Crawford (MPA’18). Back row: Landon Wilcock (Artsci’18); Cisca Rolleston Fuentes (Artsci’18); Ally Bilenkey (Artsci’20); Frannie Sobcov (Artsci’19); Lea Keren (Comm’18); Dave Walker (Artsci’18); Adam Grotsky (Law’19). Not Pictured: Nicholas Agius (Artsci’19). (University Communications)

This year’s team of Sexual Violence Bystander Intervention facilitators includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students from across faculties and schools, with diverse perspectives and experiences. The team recently spent a weekend receiving their own skill development training.

“The training weekend was really important because coming together as a team is crucial in the work that we do,” said Lea Keren (Comm’18), Sexual Violence and Bystander Awareness Student Coordinator. “The content can be difficult at times, so having your co-facilitators’ support makes this work that much more rewarding.” 

The facilitators lead students in discussions about how to navigate difficult conversations, how to recognize situations where they can safely intervene, and how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence. The training was updated over the summer to address the intersection of sexual violence with discrimination and harassment, as well as the intersection of sexual violence with multiple identities. 

“There is a disproportion of acts of sexual violence and assault perpetrated against Indigenous, LGBTQ+, racialized individuals, persons with disabilities,” says Rector Cam Yung, who is starting his second year as a bystander intervention facilitator. “The sessions are evolving to recognize this fact, and help support and uplift all marginalized students within our community.”

There are already 22 sessions scheduled for the coming days and weeks. Students receiving the training include residence dons, orientation week leaders, all AMS service staff, the Varsity Leadership Council, Peer Support Centre volunteers, and Engineering Society executives. The sessions are available to any club or group by request.

Ms. Keren will also be facilitating numerous activities throughout the school year, such as Sexual Violence Awareness Week, in partnership with the Social Issues Commission, Nov. 20-24.

Over the past year alone, more than 2,500 students have participated in the bystander intervention sessions. To book a session and for more information, visit the Student Affairs website.