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B.C. supporting safe post-secondary communities free of sexualized violence

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 12:09 PDT, Fri September 9, 2022

As a new semester starts at post-secondary institutions, government is working to support students in creating safe, inclusive, and welcoming spaces for them.

"I know how important it is for students to participate in school and campus life without worrying about their safety, whether in class, working or studying, or at a social gathering," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "We're continuing to work with students, faculty, staff, and the many student associations and groups, to fund and support a range of initiatives to raise awareness, prevent and respond to sexualized violence."

The federal government is providing $500,000 to further address sexualized violence at B.C. post-secondary institutions. This funding will improve and expand the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Training Series to address gaps when it comes to the safety of students, specifically Indigenous students, graduate students and international students, and sexualized violence through digital communications.

"Working with provinces and territories like British Columbia is one of many ways we're making sure we prevent and end gender-based violence," said Marci Ien, federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth. "Our government will continue addressing and preventing gender-based violence through projects like this one, but also by working toward the development of the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence with our partners. Increasing education, investing in community outreach, and changing policies are essential steps to creating real change."

These new specialized training resources will support systemic change in addressing sexualized violence at post-secondary institutions and will support students, faculty, and staff to prevent and respond to sexualized violence. These resources are being developed with the post-secondary sector and will be available at all institutions by summer 2024.

The province also recently provided additional funding of $500,000 to public post-secondary institutions to support and enhance sexualized violence reporting systems. This funding will help each institution implement new or enhance existing services that are trauma-informed, survivor-centric, and easily accessible to students.

"We know that rates of sexualized violence are most prominent among post-secondary-aged students," said Grace Lore, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. "Consent is the law—consent must be voluntarily and ongoing—and it can be taken away at any time. We all have a responsibility to prevent sexualized violence and we are continuing to work with post-secondary institutions, students, and communities to create awareness and to foster a culture of safety for everyone."

Over the past year, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training has been leading a comprehensive review of all public post-secondary institution policies on sexualized violence, with the aim to identify areas to improve and strengthen these policies across the sector. The ministry has also been engaging with First Nations, Métis, Indigenous organizations, community organizations, student societies, sector associations, staff and faculty unions, and subject matter experts over the summer on the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act to ensure it continues to serve post-secondary communities well. Students will have the opportunity to participate in consultation focus groups this fall.

Nearly two-thirds of on-campus assaults occur during the first eight weeks of school. In the workplace, one in four women (25 per cent) and one in six men (17 per cent) reported having been personally subjected to inappropriate sexualized behaviours in 2020.

Research indicates that Indigenous women, girls, and young women, women with disabilities, lesbian and bisexual women, and gay and bisexual men are more at risk of experiencing violence. Black women and girls are disproportionately survivors of sexualized violence. In the United States, 35 per cent of Black women experienced some form of contact sexualized violence in their lifetime.

2SLGBTQ+ students experience rates of physical assault and unwanted sexual touching at double the rate of cisgender heterosexual students and experience attempted sexual assault and sexual assault at a rate 2.5 times higher than cisgender heterosexual students.

Preventing sexualized violence on campus is one part of a multi-year action plan to help end gender-based violence being developed by the Ministry of Finance's Gender Equity Office and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Government undertook focused engagement in 2022 to inform the plan's ongoing development.

To find out more about post-secondary sexualized violence policies, visit gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safe-campuses-bc/help-on-campus

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexualized violence, contact VictimLinkBC, a toll-free, confidential, multilingual service available across B.C. and the Yukon 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling or texting 1-800-563-0808 or sending an email to VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca 
You can also call your local police or 911.

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