By: Xana Ouellette
“Be safe out there!” Those four words carry a lot of meaning for young women heading out to school. Whether they are leaving home and moving to Windsor for the first time, or just heading out for a long day of classes. However, it’s not just about the icy roads and the bad weather they are being warned about.
University campuses are dangerous places for everyone, especially for young women. Up to 40% of female university students in Ontario reported being sexually or physically assaulted on campus during their schooling. These dangers are often a huge barrier and of great importance to students living in residence, taking night classes, or staying late at the library to study.
The University of Windsor is trying to do something about this problem. Campus Community Police, emergency telephone poles, and WalkSafe all exist with to help make the campus safer. But these resources are under-used and not responsive to the changing needs of the campus community.
These on campuses services places the burden of protection and safety on people who are scared, instead of addressing toxic cultures and helps to perpetuate myths about sexual assault. When women are expected to call for help and not walk alone, it contributes to victim blaming, in that maybe she wouldn’t have been assaulted if she had behaved differently.
When a person is assaulted, there is only one person to blame. The person who committed the crime. New programs, like Flip the Script and Sexual Assault Resistance Education (SARE), are trying to change people’s perceptions of the problems. These program challenge rape culture and dangerous attitudes towards women. People who sexually assault and rape are the focus, rather than the behaviour of women. Women are assaulted because someone chose to assault them, not because of anything they did. Clothing, behaviour, and relationships are not an invitation to assault someone.
These programs take time to work. Until the culture on campus has changed, a new app, Safe Lancer is removing some of the barriers to getting help in case of emergency.
Instead of struggling to dial the University line and then the extension for Campus Police, you can press a button. If WalkSafe has closed or you are walking home on the weekend, you can use Friend Walk. There’s also a mobile blue light which replaces those giant blue poles on campus. The button on your phone will call Campus Police, send them your location, and it works even when the blue light poles aren’t working.
Always remember: the best way to prevent sexual assault is to make sure you don’t rape anyone.
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