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Half of surveyed post-secondary students experienced gender or sexual violence

Only six per cent of students reported their experience with violence

Half of Alberta post-secondary students surveyed recently experienced some form of sexual and gender-based violence but very few took advantage of supports offered by their institutions.

Those results were found in the Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Post-Secondary Education report released on Wednesday. The 87-page report is based on a survey of 12,948 post-secondary students by Leger from Jan. 30 to March 16 this year. That represents about six per cent of post-secondary students.

The survey led by MacEwan University was developed by the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual and Gender-based Violence Working Group, with representatives from the 26 publicly funded post-secondary institutions, including Red Deer Polytechnic, Olds College and Burman University.

Of all those surveyed, 74 per cent reported they had experiences of sexual and gender-based violence before attending post-secondary institutions. As a student, 50 per cent reported experiences.

Forty-five per cent reported sexual harassment experiences at school. Seventeen per cent experienced stalking, 11 per cent for sexual assault, 10 per cent intimate partner violence and four per cent non-consensual production or distribution of sexual images.

“The Students’ Association of Red Deer Polytechnic has been advocating for more awareness and education on sexual and gender-based violence on campus and to the Alberta Government for some time,” said association president Erin Bast.

“With the release of the Sexual and Gender Based Violence survey report, the students’ association is confident that Red Deer Polytechnic will take the results of this survey seriously. RDP has already taken several excellent steps towards creating a culture of consent on our campus – most recently with the hiring of a Consent Education Coordinator.

Bast said the students’ association is committed to working with the institution on further educating our college community on sexual and gender-based violence. Together, we will work toward furthering our on-campus culture of consent.”

In a statement Red Deer Polytechnic says it supports the government’s commitment to addressing, preventing and raising awareness of sexual and gender-based violence.

“RDP is committed to continuing to create safe campuses through providing awareness, training and resources around sexual and gender-based violence among students and employees.

“We will also continue to work on creating a culture of accountability through the education and enforcement of our sexual and gender-based violence policy.”

RDP had a response rate of 7.3 per cent to the survey. Seventy-nine per cent of responding RDP students identified they experienced some form of sexual gender-based violence before becoming a student at RDP, and 47 per cent experienced some form of sexual gender-based violence since becoming a student.

“Among RDP student responses, sexual harassment was identified as the most common form of sexual gender-based violence. RDP students who responded to the survey identified a strong understanding of consent, and of RDP supports available to them through our counselling services and our Health and Wellness Centre.”

Student awareness of the supports available at their schools was generally not strong with only 47 per cent aware of what was available.

Six in 10 respondents were aware their institution had a sexual and gender-based violence policies, but less then four in 10 knew where to get support or even get information. Only 23 per cent knew where to file a report.

The study suggests students are open to providing more supports.

“Overall, students are very receptive to institutions offering more education surrounding sexual and gender-based violence,” says the report

“Students are most interested in information regarding responding to sexual or gender-based violence including: how to intervene as a bystander, how to respond to a disclosure of sexual or gender-based violence, and how to report sexual and gender-based violence.”

Only six per cent told members of the faculty, administration or any other service about their experience with violence. Of those who did not report, the most common reasons — cited by 14 per cent — were fears of not being believed or taken seriously. Nine per cent felt ashamed, embarrassed or humiliated.

The report follows through on a government commitment to student leaders who had called for help to address gender-based violence on campuses. The province provided $2.5 million to institutions to do the survey, update policies, train students, staff and faculty to address gender-based violence and fund initiatives to raise awareness about available supports.

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