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Toronto Campuses Fight to Stop Sexual Assualt

Image courtesy of Ed Van-West via Flikr.

By Hannah Logan

Hopes to eradicate violence against women on post-secondary campuses by forming liaisons between universities and outreach centres has led the government of Canada to provide nearly $4 million in funding to 21 organizations.

This announcement was made at various universities and women’s centres across the country Wednesday.

“We are proud to support projects like this, which will ensure the safety of women and girls in our university communities,” said Member of Parliament Corneliu Chisu. “By working together, and empowering young people from our community, we will make it a safe place to live and learn.”

Chisu spoke at the Scarborough Women’s Centre, which has partnered with the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus for this initiative. There are many partnerships similar to this across Canada.

Gleb Masaltsev, employee of the department of student life at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), explained that they are currently in the research and outreach stage of the program, aiming to clarify what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable on campus and beyond. He said that some people might not fully understand what constitutes violence and abuse.

Masaltsev said they continue to gather more partners and resources by hosting outreach events, such as “What Makes a Man,” held Wednesday evening. This event dealt with masculinity, media and violence against women, aiming to further the male involvement in the eradication of violence against women.

Federal government organization Status of Women Canada is largely responsible for the sponsorship of this program. The organization promotes the full participation of women in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada, as described on the government website.

Lynda Kosowan, executive director at the Scarborough Women’s Centre, expressed thanks to Status of Women Canada for its support.

She explained that the centre’s mission is to facilitate the empowerment of women. She hopes that, united with UTSC, they can “prevent violence, together.” It is the young students who can take on these ideas and push them forward to enforce change, she said.

UTSC dean of student affairs, Desmond Pouyat, also expressed his support.

He said that the funding will, “foster important dialogue,” and begin crucial change. He explained that too often the concrete and visible violence against women is the only type that is focused upon, which leaves the patriarchal abuse of power to be overlooked.

Pouyat joked and poked fun at himself as he made a personal, unscripted comment about his experience working as a consultant at a women’s shelter earlier in his career. He said he experienced “a bit of trepidation” being that he was the only male.

“I’d like to think we’ve made some progress since then,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Pouyat said that the long-term goal of this project is to completely eradicate violence against women, especially on campuses.

Kavita Siewrattan, vice president of students and equity at UTSC, said violence against women is rooted in sexism.

When women do encounter violence, “there definitely is some silencing going on,” she said. The initiative seeks to eradicate this sexism and silencing, Siewrattan explained.

Former Ryerson University staff member, Liza Arnason, is now the director of student life at UTSC. She, too, feels strongly about this initiative.

“Community is a part of the university so why can’t we have one conversation together?” Arnason said. “We have to start the conversation.” She believes that in joining forces with the Scarborough Women’s Centre, they are doing just that.

Arnason refused to comment on the recent sexual assaults that have occurred on Ryerson’s campus.

Chisu said he was unaware of the details as to how the money would be spent, nor did he know how the government chose which projects to support. M

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One thought on “Toronto Campuses Fight to Stop Sexual Assualt

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