A new system designed to help victims of sexual violence on campus at the Université de Saint-Boniface has been launched.
On June 7, it was announced that the southeast Winnipeg-based university has launched a new online reporting system to provide francophone students with a new resource for reporting sexual violence and assault that’s simple and secure.
USB has worked with a company called REES — which stands for respect, educate, empower survivors — to launch its French online reporting platform. According to its website, REES can be tailored to the unique setting of post-secondary institutions. Trauma-informed and focused on the needs of survivors, it gathers critical data for institutions and bridges anonymous incident-reporting with access to information about reporting options, resources, and supports.
This new partnership represents the eleventh between REES and post-secondary institutions in the province. Other campus partners include Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, Booth University College, Canadian Mennonite University, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Providence University College and Theological Seminary, Red River College, Steinbach Bible College, the University of Winnipeg, and University College of the North.
"Sexual violence is prevalent on campuses," Mary Lobson, the founder of REES, told Canstar Community News recently. "This is a huge issue."
According to a Statistics Canada report titled Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population 2019, 71 per cent of post-secondary students have witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in the past year, and one in 10 female students experienced a sexual assault in a post-secondary setting during the previous year.
Sexualized violence can be characterized by a range of behaviours that include misconduct, harassment and assault, and can occur both in-person and online, Lobson said. REES is a safe, secure, 24-7 online platform that allows survivors to document an incident and empowers them to have their voice heard in whatever way they choose. She said the new platform enables reporting in three ways — anonymously, connecting to the campus, and reporting to police.
Lobson said because the platform is brand-new to USB, no exact incident reporting rates are available yet, but she said that only around five per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police.
"We really wanted to create a place for individuals to share an anonymous report, connect with campuses for support, or report directly to police," she said.
Lobson said there can be different reasons why sexual assaults are not reported. These include victims not being sure where to go, and a fear of what’s going to happen to them, whether it’s a fear of reprisals or them not being believed.
"We’ve partnered with USB because we want to support the francophone community on campus, and provide resources to help support them. We want to help create a safe space for students to share their story and create that safe space for survivors," she said.
"Because reporting rates are so low, this gives us the opportunity to gather data … province-wide data … and we hope this data can be used to support change."
Go online at www.reescommunity.com/on-campus for more information.
The Lance community journalist
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Canstar’s senior reporter, he joined the team in June 2009 to write for The Sou’wester, which was then the new paper in the Canstar family.