April 21st, 2024

U of L educating students about violence prevention


By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 28, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Sexual violence prevention coordinator Courtney Smith prepares a display titled "What were you wearing?" showcasing stories of sexual assaulted victims, as part of sexual and gender-based violence prevention week at the University of Lethbridge.

University of Lethbridge is focuses a week on sexual and gender-based violence prevention to educate students about consent.

Until Friday, the University of Lethbridge is staging its week of sexual and gender-based violence prevention by offering several interactive activities with the purpose to engage students to an open communication on the topic of sexual consent.

“We have been working really hard to make the topic of sexual and gender-based violence approachable. It’s really heavy, it can be challenging for people to come forward and talk about it,” said university sexual violence prevention coordinator Courtney Smith.

Smith said in recent years the U of L has mandated for most students sexual prevention training, with the exception of students who have fallen victim to sexual assault to prevent further trauma.

“We do, obviously hold this topic really near and dear to our hearts and care about bringing the awareness forward.”

Smith voiced the importance of educating students and spreading awareness on campus that the U of L does not tolerate sexual violence.

“It is something that we talk about here, that we try to make an approachable topic so that we can see changes being made to dismantle those types of violence’s…It shows that we don’t stand for these types of things. And we do have policies in place to help students who are impacted by it,” she said.

Normally Sexual Violence Prevention Month is in May, due to students not typically attending school that month but the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Team, picked the end of February after Reading Week for to acknowledge the issue.

“It’s after Reading Week students are rested. They’re ready to come back and learn about some new things and participate. And I thought what a great way to get students involved in. That’s why we picked February.”

Smith said the Sexual Violence Action Team (SVAC Lethbridge) holds events that the U of L such as “What were you wearing?”

“Raise some awareness to de-stigmatize the topic about gender-based violence and what people are wearing when they were sexually assaulted.”

She said mural art paintings went up Monday for the week and today and Thursday plants will be given out to students which symbolize consent.

“We have a model called growing culture of consent. We hand out these little tropical plants. . . Students know when they walk past and they see those plants they know it’s from the Gender Based Violence Prevention Office,” said Smith.

She said studies have shown the best solution to prevention sexual violence is through education.

“We know education is the best form of prevention. I think when a survivor walks past, or they see that we’re really out there, making it visible I feel like people feel supported or seen and heard, know that this is something that the university doesn’t tolerate. I feel they can see that we care about it, that people are talking about the topic, their voices won’t be silenced.”

Smith said the week also showcases the direct supports students who have fallen victim to sexual violence can have confidentially.

“There’s visibility for this topic that we do care, we are talking about it. No one’s being silenced. But education is the best form of prevention,” she said.

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