‘Step up’ against dating violence at MRU
Stepping Up Community Fair highlights projects about healthy relationships
On March 16, the Stepping Up Community Fair broadcasted the various projects, created by students, to prevent dating violence, keeping an eye out for fellow students who may be in dangerous situations and talking about what healthy relationships look like.
The fair was a part of the Stepping Up program, which offers a weekend module for students to complete, as well as a final community project. The module includes information on how to identify dating violence, what consent means, what healthy relationships are and highlighting the fact that both men and women can experience dating violence.
Catherine Carter-Snell, Faculty of the School of Nursing, said that the initiative began in 2010.
“Dr. Gaye Warthe, Department of Social Work and Disability Studies, found that 30 per cent of student’s that are coming into Mount Royal have already experienced violence in a dating relationship. At least 10 per cent more will experience it in their first year on campus.”
Carter-Snell said this statistic is pretty consistent with campus statistics for sexual assault and dating violence elsewhere.
“Some places say one in five people will be sexually assaulted on campus. That’s not allowable.”
Carter-Snell explained that’s what lead to the creation of Stepping Up. The model of Stepping Up reflects Making Waves, a program from New Brunswick, teaching high-school students about dating violence and sexual assault.
“We found that this was the most effective model,” said Carter-Snell.
She said that the program has been offered three times since 2010, and has seen dramatically positive results. Students have had long-lasting changes in attitudes, knowledge and behaviours related to healthy relationships and healthy sexual relationships.
Devon Bonville-Wills, second-year student in child studies, said that he learned a lot from the Stepping Up program.
“I think a lot of things I learned were people’s attitudes towards men partaking in dating violence and how women can impact men towards dating violence.”
Bonville-Wills booth was about consent. The title, “Consent is Sexy”.
“With new films coming out, like 50 Shades of Grey, we felt that consent was really important and it’s not necessarily taught all the time.”
“We had one participant, when we asked them about consent, and granted it may have just been a joke, but because the nature of the fair we are doing right now for Stepping Up, they would just say ‘oh no well it’s not necessary’ or they would laugh about it. Even that attitude shows us that it’s a real concern. (It shows) that we need to have more consent even on campus.”
Carter-Snell stated that only a small per cent of all assaults happen from an individual that the victim didn’t previously know. The rest come from friends, pre-existing relationships or happen at parties.
“What we’ve found consistently with student’s coming in is that they aren’t recognizing what dating violence is,” discussed Carter-Snell. “Behaviours like always reading their texts or sending them multiple texts are stalking behaviours. Or putting them down, or making them feel bad about themselves and internalizing blame for arguments.”
Carter-Snell said she believes dating violence and sexual assault is not talked about on campus enough and said that she believes that a lot of assaults are going underreported. According to Carter-Snell, people don’t want to report because 70 to 80 per cent of sexual assault happens within groups of friends and victims are fearful of losing friendships.
“There’s a myth that we’re a community institution and we have commuter students so it’s not as big of a deal because we don’t have as many students in residence,” explains Carter-Snell.
“I’ve heard that from both faculty and students. It’s a denial of anything bad.” She added that people like to believe they live in a safety bubble, and admitting anything bad happens on campus would break that bubble.
According to Carter-Snell, at one point the security department put out posters, Don’t Be That Guy, and they got a huge backlash from the students. Students complained they didn’t want them up, saying they found them offensive.
Bonville-Wills said that there needs to be more awareness on campus, and students should break free from being too shy to talk about sex.
“Consent doesn’t have to be something that takes steam away from the moment. Instead, consent can be sexy,” he explained.