Western centre receives $300,000 to develop sexual violence and harassment training projects for Ontario campuses

The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) has received $300,000 from the Ontario Government to support sexual violence and harassment training projects for campus frontline workers.

CREVAWC, located at Western’s Faculty of Education, will use the funding to develop training for campus employees on how to intervene and provide support if they witness or become aware of sexual harassment or violence. The project will help ensure that anyone employed by a university or college in Ontario, from top administrators and faculty members to campus staff and volunteers, will be better equipped to handle the disclosure of an inappropriate or violent sexual encounter.

“If someone has been sexually assaulted, they could conceivably disclose that information to anyone with whom they feel some kind of bond,” said CREVAWC Community Director, Barb MacQuarrie. “The majority of people, given the uncomfortable nature of the subject, wouldn’t know how to handle that, so we want to prepare as many people as possible by teaching them how to be supportive and respond appropriately.”

Working with a steering committee that includes representatives from several Ontario universities, as well as George Brown College, the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres and the Canadian Federation of Students, MacQuarrie is leading the development of several interactive, online learning modules.

The modules will use video scenarios shot by a professional film director that show situations where a moment of disclosure occurs. Actors in the videos will first show an inadequate, unsupportive and possibly harmful response. A second take of the same scenarios will then model the proper response. MacQuarrie hopes to have a dozen different scenarios filmed and online by September 2017.

The training will be universal in nature, but CREVAWC will also be developing materials to try to address the difference in policies and available support networks from campus to campus around the province. The online nature of the project means everything is easily accessible to anyone who wishes to learn more.

“We’re at the very beginning of learning how to do this work well. Post-secondary institutions have lots of caring individuals, but they don’t have a long history of addressing this subject in an open and welcoming way,” said MacQuarrie. “This funding and this project are going to go a long way towards helping that change.”

The funding is part of a larger Ontario investment of $1.7 million towards developing sexual violence and harassment training projects for frontline workers.

MacQuarrie hopes the project’s easily accessible content, combined with CREVAWC’s extensive network of contacts, will lead to positive change not only on Ontario campuses, but on campuses across Canada and internationally as well.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Ledgley, Senior Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85283, sledgley@uwo.ca

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Barb MacQuarrie