Throw­ing a line

Ser­vice ex­pected to help abuse vic­tims

Cape Breton Post - - PROVINCIAL - BY HEIDE PEAR­SON

The Dal­housie Stu­dent Union is tak­ing its first step to­ward chang­ing at­ti­tudes about rape cul­ture, sex­ism, misog­yny, ho­mo­pho­bia, and trans­pho­bia at the Hal­i­fax univer­sity.

The DSU is pre­par­ing to launch a pi­lot anony­mous Sex­ual As­sault Peer Sup­port Phone Help Line in Septem­ber.

“We’re look­ing to launch a 24hour sex­ual as­sault sup­port line and to be op­er­a­tional for the first six weeks of the school year,” said DSU vice-pres­i­dent Kait­lynne Lowe.

The DSU is look­ing to hire a co­or­di­na­tor who will ac­quire vol­un­teers to work eight-hour shifts to han­dle phone lines. Ideally, there would be at least two vol­un­teers in the call cen­tre at all times.

Lowe said the pro­gram has been in the works for over a year, but af­ter re­cent events at Dal­housie, there’s a big­ger push to pro­vide these ser­vices.

“The in­ci­dents in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary def­i­nitely brought to light a lot of the is­sues, that it’s just a preva­lent sys­tem­atic and cul­tural is­sue,” she said. “This is just one of the ways that we can tackle it, by giv­ing a sup­port to sur­vivors.”

Lowe said they took in­spi­ra­tion from other univer­si­ties in Canada who of­fer sim­i­lar ser­vices. There is cur­rently no pro­gram like this in Nova Sco­tia.

She em­pha­sized the phone line isn’t for re­port­ing sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence, but for seek­ing help. Ad­vis­ing call­ers to re­port an as­sault will vary from case to case.

“They’re able to talk to some­one who is go­ing to pro­vide non­judge­men­tal, ac­tive lis­ten­ing, be able to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion, and also to pro­vide sup­port those who call in to process in­ci­dents.”

Though the sup­port line isn’t for re­port­ing, the DSU says Dal­housie should have an anony­mous re­port­ing pro­to­col.

The co-or­di­na­tor and vol­un­teers will go through ex­ten­sive train­ing to en­sure they’re able to prop­erly sup­port call­ers look­ing for help.

The DSU hopes to have the pro­gram up and run­ning for fall se­mes­ter, as there tends to be a spike in sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence on cam­pus, Lowe said.

Af­ter that, they will eval­u­ate its suc­cess and hope­fully keep the phone lines open all year.

“We hope it will pro­vide a safe space for any­one who ex­pe­ri­ences sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence,” Lowe said.

“It’s an is­sue that stu­dents have been at the fore­front fight­ing for years and this is just a great ex­am­ple of how we can make some change of re­al­ity.”

JEFF HARPER/METRO NEWS

Kait­lynne Lowe, vice-pres­i­dent of in­ter­nal af­fairs for the Dal­housie Stu­dent Union, dis­cusses a new help line at the Hal­i­fax cam­pus Tues­day.

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