Sexual violence support advocate hired at Laurier

Photo by Tanzeel Sayani
Photo by Tanzeel Sayani

Wilfrid Laurier University has welcomed Sarah Scanlon to its campuses as the school’s first sexual violence support advocate, a position introduced this past fall.

The introduction of the position of sexual violence support advocate is another step Laurier is taking to work towards its goal of eliminating gendered violence on campus, largely supported to date by initiatives operated through the Gendered Violence Task Force.

“The position’s goal is to create a safe space for survivors to be heard, believed and validated, while I work with them to try to give them more options that fit the survivor’s needs,” said Scanlon.

“The work I do is available to all members of the Laurier community who have been impacted by gendered or sexual violence, regardless of when or where the violence took place.”

In addition to working with individuals who have experienced gendered or sexual violence, Scanlon works with individuals whose lives have been impacted by people in their lives who are experiencing harm.

She will also be working with individuals who have caused harm in the past.

Through relationships with community and university partners, the sexual violence support advocate is tasked with, amongst other things, working to provide referrals to survivors for counselling and medical care, helping them to navigate procedures for on and off campus reporting of violence, and helping to arrange academic and campus accommodations for survivors.

“Students cannot learn in an atmosphere where it’s not safe,” said Scanlon. “And so there are more and more members of the university that are working towards reducing victimization and the cultural acceptance of rape.”

In addition to the support provided by Scanlon’s position, Laurier has formed partnerships with sexual assault centres in both Waterloo and Brantford.

By bringing councillors to the Brantford campus four days a week and in Waterloo two days a week, as well as gaining access to the public educator from the sexual assault centre, Laurier is working to strengthen the focus on prevention.

In an effort to better reflect the efforts being made across the university to address sexual and gendered violence, Laurier currently has a working group, of which Scanlon is a member, who are working to completely overhaul the school’s policy and procedures regarding sexual and gendered violence.

“The biggest goal is to ensure that students have a much clearer, more accessible understanding of how to access support and how to put forward complaints to the university,” said Scanlon.

“So I’m written in throughout the procedure to ensure that students have an advocate and someone to clearly explain to them the many different options available to them, to make sure that as best as possible their needs can be met.”

These recent developments have come to fruition thanks to members from within the university community pushing the importance of gendered and sexual violence resources on campus, as well as pressure from the provincial government.

“Provincially there’s pressure across all of Ontario. Universities are being asked to make sure that the processes are more clear and universities are hiring positions similar to mine, because I think that there’s just a shift around this conversation in general in our communities,” said Scalon.

“People are asking their communities, in particular university communities, to do better in response to sexual violence on campus.”

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