Victims and survivors of sexual violence can experience a variety of difficult and painful emotions. Yet two-thirds of Canadians do not understand what consent is, and this is a dangerous sign.
A survey done by the Canadian Women’s Foundation indicated that only 28 per cent of Canadians fully understand what it means to give consent. Consent is often thought to be common sense. However, as the saying goes, common sense is not so common.
Sexual Assault Awareness Week at the U of S is an annual event that educates students on what consent really is. Collectively, we need to take this training more seriously.
The university has seen an increase in the number of reported sexual violence acts from 2016 to 2019. This could indicate an increase in frequency, but it is more likely correlated to an increase in awareness and reduced stigma when reporting sexual violence.
Daisy Houle, the sexual wellness facilitator at Peer Health, has noticed that students surprise themselves when they relate the educational information to their own experiences, and then being able to retroactively identify inappropriate sexual behaviour.
The psychological effects of sexual violence can turn simple daily tasks into extraordinary ones, making life much more difficult. Individuals that have experienced sexual violence are likely to see some degree of deteriorated mental health.
Sexual violence not only has negative impacts on victims and survivors but also for anyone near to the situation, Houle said.
Consent must be clear, coherent, willing, ongoing, enthusiastic, informed and mutually agreed upon. Consent must be free of pressure, intimidation and fear — it cannot be assumed and is not the absence of a “no.” Understanding each aspect of consent is critical for everyone, especially students.
Houle says that sexual violence not only has negative impacts on victims and survivors but also for anyone near to the situation.
“Know your limits if you are going to support someone and get them in touch with the professionals,” Houle said. “Advocate for yourself, but if you do not think you are in a place that you can — reach out.”
Part of SAAW, the U of S held Bringing in the Bystander training, a workshop to educated on safely intervening in instances where sexual violence may occur. The training emphasizes barriers to intervening and the importance of personal safety when deciding to intervene.
The training teaches that it is important to reassure the victim or survivor that they are being heard, supported and that help is available. Experiencing sexual violence or harassment is never the victim or survivor’s fault — and this message can be powerful for some people to hear.
Some of the common effects of sexual trauma can include disruption of sleeping and eating habits, loss of interest in activities and dissociation. There can also be long term effects of hopelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
By educating those on campus about sexual violence prevention and response tactics, Bringing in the Bystander can help create a safer campus community.
Bringing in the Bystander training for the fall term is offered on Oct. 8, Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. To register, visit usask.ca/stayhealthy.
Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor