Northwestern B.C. website aimed at safeguarding students

Provides information on sexual assaults, harassment

A Smithers society has adapted its in-school presentations on sexual assault and its prevention at Canadian post secondary school institutions to the internet.

Campusassault.ca is a newly launched website created by the Northern Society for Domestic Peace for rural and Indigenous students in B.C. and Alberta heading off to their first year of post-secondary studies in those province’s larger cities.

“We find that most of the students from here go to Prince George, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton,” explained society executive administrator Airika Owen of the website’s client focus.

The intent of the website is to provide students with information on sexual assault and harassment, safe bystander intervention, consent, supporting a friend and how to get help if they have been assaulted.

Owen said research shows that students are at the highest risk for campus sexual assault in their first year at school — many within the first eight weeks.

As such, one of the strongest messages on the website is that alcohol is not an excuse for sexual assault.

It also stresses that the first responses to reported situations of assault set the tone for what happens next.

“We want people to be good allies and supporters,” said Owen should someone’s friend make a disclosure.

A searchable data base of services available throughout B.C. and Alberta was also considered important for students moving to unfamiliar locations where they might not have family and other support systems.

“Putting that information on line and tailoring it for rural and Indigenous young people is important in an era where digital communication is predominant,” said Owen.

“Producing something like a pamphlet just won’t work anymore. Pamphlets really are a thing of the past,” she said.

A website can be constantly updated as new information and resources become available, Owen added.

But the society will continue to visit schools speaking to Grade 11 and Grade 12 students in the region close to graduation each year although it will have to look for grants to finance the presentations, she said.

A series of videos shown to students during the presentations has also been placed on the website.

Both Telus and the federal Department of Justice have financially assisted the society in its efforts.

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