Throwing a line
Service expected to help abuse victims
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.”
Kaitlynne Lowe, vice-president of internal affairs for the Dalhousie Student Union, discusses a new help line at the Halifax campus Tuesday.