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Emily RosserEmily Rosser of the Bystander Initiative believes it will foster a climate more supportive of students who act to prevent sexual assault.

Gift card incentive to spread Bystander Initiative education

A program to prevent sexual assault before it happens is getting a boost on campus this semester, thanks to $50 for 500, a pilot project that will provide $50 gift card incentives to 500 first-year students who undergo training in the Bystander Initiative.

The workshops train participants to see themselves as potential bystanders who could intervene and stop an assault, and teaches the importance of speaking out against social norms that support sexual assault and coercion. Students learn how to recognize and safely interrupt situations that could lead to sexual assault, and how to be an effective and supportive ally to survivors.

Anne Forrest and Charlene Senn, co-founders and researchers for the UWindsor Bystander Initiative, say the University has taken the lead in sexual assault prevention and awareness among its peers.

The University of Windsor was the first in Canada to provide bystander sexual assault training. Since 2011, it has been available to thousands of students embedded in current courses in programs across several faculties. In addition, in purpose-built courses, the initiative has educated and trained more than 100 undergraduate workshop facilitators.

Starting in fall 2018, every first-year student will be eligible for the $50 gift card incentive supported by the President’s Office.

“The University of Windsor was the first Canadian university to put sustained effort into a program designed to produce a series of small but persistent changes in students’ thinking and behaviour,” says Emily Rosser, team leader for the Bystander Initiative. “We believe that over time this will shift the campus climate towards one that is less tolerant of sexual assault and more supportive of students who take action when intervention is called for.”

According to Dr. Rosser, administration-led systematic change in attitudes, coupled with engaging students as agents of this change, are key factors in the program’s success so far.

“We also use the undergraduate curriculum to reach the maximum number of students right where they are — in the classroom,” she says. “This is unique to our university and is thanks to an alliance between academic faculty and student affairs staff, as well as strong collaboration among the Odette School of Business; the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; and the Faculty of Law.”

For more information on the UWindsor Bystander Initiative, visit uwindsor.ca/bystander.