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Report on university campus sexual violence calls for culture change
Report on university campus sexual violence calls for culture change avatar

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Peter Ricketts, president and vice chancellor of Acadia University, said the school included sexual violence education and awareness about responsible alcohol use in its orientation week this fall.

But he acknowledged that "it's not enough" and that more needs to be done to prevent sexual violence.

The Wolfville, N.S., university is working on developing a stand-alone sexual violence policy, Ricketts said.

Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis said half the province's universities have already developed stand-alone sexual violence policies, while the other half are expected to comply by 2018.

He said the report, entitled Changing the Culture of Acceptance, should be required reading across the province.

"What really struck home to me is it spoke about an attitude change," he said. "I felt it went beyond universities and that every Nova Scotian should read the report."

The Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students said that although the report calls for changes students have long advocated for, there is no accountability to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

"Students are concerned there is no accountability if institutions fail to implement these recommendations," said chairperson Aidan McNally. "This report does not include timelines, it does not include any recourse for institutions that fail to prioritize this work."

She said the province should have mandated sexual violence policies with legislation, as in other provinces.

However, Students Nova Scotia called the report a "step in the right direction."

"The survivor centred, intersectional approach of this report challenges institutions to ensure policies and procedures and to provide necessary supports for students," said Annie Sirois, chairperson of StudentsNS, in an emailed statement.

"We believe that these recommendations form a strong first step to changing campus culture and preventing sexual violence."

Johannah May Black with the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association said bystander training is key to preventing sexual violence.

Instead of putting the responsibility on young women to "watch out for each other," she said bystander education training creates a culture where people will step in and help prevent sexual violence.

"It's about stepping in when we see something, checking in with our friends, shutting down sexist or misogynist comments," Black said. "It teaches people to stand up when they see something wrong and to intervene."

The sexual violence prevention committee is made up of representatives from the provincial government, universities, student groups and community agencies.

Its recommendations follow up on the province's first report on addressing sexual violence, called Breaking the Silence, released in 2015.

The Canadian Press

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