Spreading safety and consent on campus
author: taylor balfour | news writer
Red Zone project aims to educate
Many students by now have seen The Red Zone set up by UR Safe, as well as the accompanying posters hung up around campus.
The project has been in place since the first day of the 2017 fall semester, bringing awareness to sexual violence on campus during the first weeks of school.
“The Red Zone is the period of time from the start of classes until Thanksgiving that first-year students are at the highest risk for sexual assault,” Pat Patton, the director of Security and Operations, says.
“This is just a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and provide assistance and support to students.”
The UR Safe page on the University of Regina’s website details statistics related solely to the U of R regarding sexual violence. The page details findings from the Gendered Violence Protection Project that took place in September, 2016.
The report claims that 97 per cent of students surveyed on campus believe that “a woman’s consent to sexual experiences matters.”
The website also reports that 80 per cent said that sexual assault is “a big problem on post-secondary campuses” and 95 per cent claiming that they believe “men have a role to play in preventing sexual assault, harassment, and gender-based violence on campus.”
“In particular I want students to be aware that there are resources available to them. We want students to know we believe them and will support them,” Patton says.
“The University’s Office of Gendered Violence continues to bring the University together to support students. Remember to look after each other and respect each other.”
“I believe The Red Zone campaign is an incredibly important undertaking in which the University community can engage. It provides opportunity for a visual that can convey the severity of the issue at hand,” Roz Kelsey, head of the Gendered Violence Prevention Project, says.
“Sexual Assault happens throughout the entire year, and on every campus but having said that, research undertaken in the area of gendered violence states that the first 6 weeks (from the first day of orientation) presents the highest level of risk for first year students who identify as female.”
Sexual assault on campuses is far and widespread across the country, not just at the U of R. CBC published an article in January, 2017, stating that “Quebec’s francophone universities are sites of widespread sexual violence where many are victimized repeatedly” according to a study released by a team at Université du Québec à Montréal.
In February of this year, the Globe and Mail released an article detailing that investigations “into more than 10,000 recent sexual-assault complaints” have been launched thanks to “a Globe investigation that exposed serious flaws in law-enforcement practices across the country.”
Even more recent, earlier this month, the University of Victoria launched a new sexual violence prevention office.
“If we substitute the risk of another type of violent crime that is not associated with sexual assault but had similarly reported numbers, (for instance robbery), and asked our campus what they would expect as a response from the University – there would be a great demand for attention, education, awareness, action and protection,” Kelsey says.
“We need to do more as a community to change the culture around how we see and understand sexual assault.”
Most importantly, Kelsey wants this project to educate students on specific issues regarding sexual assault and how it takes place.
“The underpinning of this campaign is to educate students on what constitutes sexual assault,” she explains.
“Sexual assault is defined as ANY sexual contact with another person without that other person’s consent. We then must ensure that our students understand what constitutes consent.”
The Sexual Assault Centre of Canada claim that “only 1 in 3 Canadians understand what sexual consent means” and that “most perpetrators don’t consider themselves perpetrators.”
“Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual act or activity. Consent is Voluntary, Sober, Continual, Retractile, Honest, Clear, Willing, Coherent and Ongoing,” Kelsey continues.
“This first and most challenging barrier is to this education, is to even get students to talk about these concepts,” Kelsey says.
“It is not commonly and openly discussed, but it is a topic that is essential in which to engage if we hope to make change.”
However, if any students need resources of help and support, the U of R campus has plenty.
“There are many places students can seek help. Students can speak to Counselling Services, the Office of Gendered Violence or Campus security,” Patton explains, also stating that UR Safe’s website has a section to assist in reporting anything.
“All areas will ensure that survivors get the support they need.”
On the UR Safe Red Zone pamphlets, they explain proper steps and procedures as to how to get help and what to do if you or a friend has been the victim of sexual assault. The first step, it says, is to seek medical attention immediately. From there, it includes a number of helplines including the UR Safe number: 306-585-4491.
Campus officials are here to ensure the safety of their students, and all those on campus are encouraged to report anything if they need help.
“We would like to hear issues from students so that we can ensure their needs are met,” Patton says.
“If you have an issue, let us know and we will support your needs as best we can.”
The Red Zone is an anxious time for many students on campus, but it is important to know that your school continues to go out of it’s way to ensure you remain healthy and safe.
“I think it is very important for students to understand that no matter when or where or under what circumstances an assault may have occurred, we are here to provide support, guidance, referrals and to simply listen,” Kelsey concludes.
“If you or anyone you know needs support, please seek out help. We will always do our best to maintain confidentiality and to respond in a way that best supports victims and survivors of sexual assault.”