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Lessons learned

author: elisabeth sahlmueller | contributor

Sexual Assault

Although sexual violence is a serious problem in our society, for both students and adults, some people feel that if they act ignorant then it can’t be too big of a problem.

One valuable lesson I learned as a child was that attempting to ignore a problem doesn’t make it disappear, or change the reality. Instead, the problem grows bigger over time and gets even worse. Although sexual violence is a serious problem in our society, for both students and adults, some people feel that if they act ignorant then it can’t be too big of a problem. Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia has made a strong effort to help victims of sexual assault by creating a protection call line; however, even though this line received great usage last year, it has been given a decreased amount of funding from the university’s administration for this upcoming school year. Not only is this unfair, but it also conveys the message that sexual violence is not a major concern, when that is not the case. Even though sexual assault can be considered an uncomfortable and controversial topic, with multiple gray areas, I believe it is an issue that needs to be addressed in order for positive change to be made.

Despite people’s opinions on what can be classified as sexual assault, a good definition is anytime “a person is forced, or coerced into sexual activity.” This happens more often than people realize and in many cases, it is something which university students experience the most. Research has shown that the majority of these sexual assault cases occur during the first two months of the school year. As well, Charlene Seen, a researcher of rape prevention has found that “one in five women will have experienced some sort of sexual assault by graduation.” Unfortunately, victims often feel uncomfortable, or afraid to tell someone about what happened. This is partly because they may feel ashamed about the situation, or they know that they will likely be blamed for what happened, as a result of being under the influence of alcohol, or drugs.

With this in mind, the Dalhousie University launched a 24/7 call protection line last September; the call line was run by over one hundred student volunteers who each received hours of training. According to last years Vice President Internal of Dalhousie’s Student Union, Kaitlynne Lowe, the call line “gives people an opportunity to seek support while staying anonymous and safe.” However, although last year the line was successful at providing positive support and feedback to victims, it will be receiving a significant less amount of funding this upcoming school year from the school’s administration. Last year, $30,000 was put up by the administration and the total cost of running the line was $45,000. This year, the administration has decided to give $22,500. Even though they feel that their financial help equally matches the lines usage, it is not right for them to give such a lower contribution when it is clear that more money is needed to maintain the call line. Sexual assault is a serious issue and Dalhousie’s protection line provides a great level of support and help to victims, who otherwise wouldn’t get any. While this line won’t stop sexual assault on campus, it is something positive which raises awareness about the issue and should be given the adequate funding it deserves.

Despite the fact that people seem unbothered by this issue and can easily ignore it, especially when they aren’t affected, it is clear that with so many cases a larger focus on sexual violence needs to be emphasized. One of the ways this can be accomplished is through the education system. It is important to teach young children to value themselves and not be afraid to say no to anything they do not feel comfortable with. I know the school system doesn’t like to bring up these topics, but if students learn about these things earlier, they would be more prepared if that circumstance arose. Another thing that needs to be done is to stop blaming the victim for putting themselves into the situation on their own. Even though a person may be under the influence of alcohol, or drugs, through their own choice, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to sexually assault them.

Sexual violence is not a minor issue that people should turn a blind eye on. I sincerely hope Dalhousie University’s administration considers giving additional financial assistance because a call line for victims is something worth supporting.


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