Sexual violence is not supposed to be part of the university experience — yet one in four women will experience rape or attempted rape during their time at a Canadian post-secondary institution.
The University of Windsor’s Bystander Initiative is working to address this staggering statistic through the cultivation of community responsibility. Meaning that everyone within the campus community has an important role and responsibility in addressing sexual violence. Community responsibility challenges the widely-held belief that the elimination sexual violence is a “women’s issue,” or that sexual violence impacts only those directly involved.
Founded by UWindsor professors Anne Forrest and Charlene Senn, the Bystander Initiative embeds sexual violence prevention education into the undergraduate curriculum, the only program of its kind in Canada.
The Bystander Initiative is seeking undergraduate students to enrol in 3500 Practical Strategies for Social Change, facilitated in Fall 2019 by professor Frankie Cachon. The course explores the complexity of sexual violence, inviting students to deconstruct the ways in which sexual violence is normalized and embedded in everyday lives. The program encourages students to take personal and social responsibility for the prevention of sexual violence by increasing proactive bystander intervention among their peers.
“This course is very much about building student leadership, creating a space where students can unlearn dominant myths about sexual violence and, most importantly, gain the practical skills needed to be positive social change agents within our campus community and beyond,” says Dr. Cachon. “It’s an absolute privilege to watch students move from apathetic to empowered — fostering a campus climate where sexual violence will not be tolerated.”
The class is offered for credit as a general social science, psychology, social work, sociology/criminology, or women’s and gender studies course. Prerequisites include semester 4+ standing. Interested undergraduate students are encouraged to apply at https://www.bystanderinitiative.ca/participate/courses.