The Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children (CREVAWC) co-developed a free and accessible online training program that helps employees in post-secondary institutions provide positive support to those who disclose they’re a sexual violence survivor.
While many programs focus on bystander interventions for students, this new program provides guidance for how staff and faculty can intervene and support survivors if they witness or become aware of gender-based sexual violence. This online training provides supportive responses to survivors of sexual violence in an engaging, interactive format.
“This training is even more important in the #MeToo era where more and more survivors are feeling empowered to speak up about the violations they have experienced,” says Barb MacQuarrie, CREVAWC Community Director. “We have an ethical responsibility in post-secondary institutions to respond supportively and do no further harm when someone discloses.”
Researchers have documented the profound negative effects that secondary victimization has on survivors. Secondary victimization refers to the further harm caused when helping professionals are victim-blaming or unsupportive. Responding to sexual violence demands specific communication skills, understanding the law, equity issues and intersectionality, and awareness of the psychological impact of trauma. It also requires a sense of collective responsibility.
The training has been created for faculty, administrative staff, residence, housing and facilities staff, financial services staff, counselling and accessibility support staff and faculty, international student recruiters and support staff, Indigenous services staff, health and wellness teams, and managers.
An Advisory Committee including representatives from Brock University, Western University, University of Toronto, York University, Windsor University, George Brown College, Canadian Federation of Students, Sault College, Fanshawe College, Queen’s University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Nipissing University shared their experiences and expertise and helped shape the training.
“Supporting students, especially vulnerable students, isn’t intuitive; it requires a set of skills that must be learned and practiced. That is what makes these innovative, engaging modules so timely and important,” said Professor Jeffrey Aaron Weingarten from Fanshawe College and a member of the Advisory Committee. “They provide the tools and knowledge that will enable educators to be exactly what post-secondary institutions need right now and going forward: compassionate mentors who healthily model empathy and respect for a diverse student population. I was honoured to be a part of this project.”
Universities and colleges have been under intense scrutiny as incidents of sexual violence on campuses have been widely reported. Postsecondary campuses are also centres for research, education and training. They are well positioned to be catalysts for the dramatic change that is so urgently needed.
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