Raising awareness of sexual assault
By Jeff Green
Students on Memorial’s St. John’s campus will get a chance later this month to learn about the university’s all-male sexual assault, peer-education program the first of its kind in Canada.
The Sexual Harassment Office is hosting an information session on Sept. 13 during Sexual Violence Awareness Week for male students to find out more about One in Four, a volunteer group on campus that helps sexual assault survivors. The group also travels around Memorial to educate other guys about sexual assault.
“No other Canadian university or college currently offers this program, which provides practical advice,” said Lori Yetman, Memorial’s sexual harassment advisor. “A lot of women have men in their lives in a loving capacity, whether they are their partners, siblings, employers, so men are very often the first to discover that a woman has been assaulted. And if that happens, they want to know what to do.”
This month’s information workshop includes a video presentation on how men can help women who may have been assaulted. Following the video, male students who are interested in the program can pre-register for a 15-hour program slated for January. After the extensive training, students then present workshop to other male groups.
This is not the first time Ms. Yetman has offered this kind of training on campus. Since 2002, she has held two other sessions. “Most of the students in my original groups have graduated so we need new members,” said Ms. Yetman.
She also decided to re-launch the program and workshop to allow men to take an active role in Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
“A lot of controversy is generated by the last event of that week which is the Take Back the Night event,” said Ms. Yetman. “The organizers of the march do not want male involvement. So, it was suggested that I do something so that men could be involved in some capacity. I know myself that in September I get a lot of males wanting to get involved with this centre. I’m offering the introductory information meeting this month and then hopefully will get students to volunteer for the program during the winter semester.”
Ms. Yetman said January’s in-depth training will cover a number of issues including the various types of offences, rape trauma syndrome and drug-facilitated sexual assault. She thinks the program helps fill a void for men who want to help sexually-assaulted women.
“There haven’t been a lot of avenues for men to learn this stuff. We all recognize that if we are going to do something about this then we all need to get involved,” she said. “The training session includes some intense issues. The types of guys I get involved are those who are socially aware on a number of levels and concerned about their community and the world on a global level and want to play a part in helping women but never had an avenue to learn.”
Ms. Yetman said she’d like to get as many first-year students involved in the program since they’ll be around on campus for at least next four or five years. “That helps to give the program a bit more longevity but I’m not going to turn away a fourth-year student. I want as many guys as possible.”
The workshop Ms. Yetman uses was developed by Dr. John Foubert of the University of Virginia and has been implemented in colleges, universities, rape-crisis centres and military units across the United States.
Ms. Yetman said she has received numerous calls from other universities across the country looking for information about the One in Four group and how to properly educate male students on their campuses about sexual assault.
“Carleton University and the University of Toronto have contacted me and I’ve given them a training manual I’ve developed for this program so I think it’s great more men want to take part,” she said. “Proper education about sexual assault can help significantly decrease men’s belief in rape myths. This program is crucial in helping provide peer educators vital knowledge and then passing that knowledge on to other groups.”
The information session, titled How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor: What Men Can Do, takes place from 5-6:30 p.m. in room A-1043 on Sept. 13.