A new sexual assault task force is making its way onto campus.
The new group is comprised of educated individuals who can provide survivors of sexual assault with information and counselling.
“It’s a new effort that we’re putting forward in order to have an immediate response to any sort of sexual assault on campus,” said Kathleen Pye, UNB’s sexual assault response team advocate.
The new response team aims not only to support and assist survivors but also educate and make people conscious of sexual issues on campus.
“I’m hoping that we build awareness about what sexual assault is and that it’s an issue just like rape culture is an issue. We cringe when we hear it because there’s so much stigma and shame and misinformation about it,” said Pye.
Pye describes sexual assault as “any unwanted sexual activity.” Sexual assault rates on campus are at a high during the first few weeks of class.
“A lot of [new students] are going to be experimenting with drinking and may not understand what their limits are or how to drink in a safe way, and unfortunately there are perpetrators out there who know that,” she said.
However, it’s not always easy to distinguish who and who not to trust, and this is an issue Pye hopes to educate students about.
“The majority of sexual assaults are done by people that you know. This stranger danger myth is just that — a myth,” said Pye.
According to Statistics Canada, one in four women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and many on a university or college campus will be sexually assaulted before they finish their degree, with several of these assaults going unreported.
“Campus sexual assault is a problem not just at UNB but it’s a problem everywhere across North America. We want to change the culture on campus from ‘Don’t get raped’ to ‘Don’t rape.’ It’s not about slamming survivors because it’s never their fault,” Pye said.
One of the response team’s new initiatives is to create “good bystanders,” essentially people who looks out for those around them and aren’t afraid to say something about unsuitable behaviour.
“Being a bystander is a really big piece of this puzzle. It’s okay to be that person that asks someone if they’re okay, that says something if they see something inappropriate … when they feel like something’s off — to listen to their gut when something just doesn’t look okay,” said Pye.
Pye encourages students to get involved with the response team, whether it’s getting more information on initiatives or proposing their own ideas to the task force.
“It’s really important that we come with a really strong unified front to be able to deal with this. Being able to work together as a campus community makes it easier. When everyone’s involved — when everyone takes ownership in part of the problem — we can start to combat it.”