Ask First over Green Dot

UTM has recently shifted away from the Green Dot campaign dedicated to teaching bystanders about the choices they can make and techniques they can use to decrease incidents of violence on and off campus.

The university’s assault counsellor, Cheryl Champagne, learned about the program when researching violence reduction strategies in higher education, and UTM implemented it in January 2013. Champagne’s goal was to provide training “to learn how to recognize power-based personal violence, some of the risky situations, and also understand and appreciate what our obstacles are”. The Health and Counselling Centre, Campus Police, and the departments of Student Housing and Residence Life and Physical Health and Education supported the program.

However, more recently, UTM switched to Ask First, which focuses on consent to sexual activity, which is emphasized as not only intercourse but also touching, kissing, and the like.

“Green Dot experienced significant successes in residence regarding awareness and skills related to the prevention of power-based personal violence,” said Christopher Lengyell, assistant director of residence life. “Now with the implementation of the Ask First campaign we have begun to explore further opportunities to engage students in conversations around consent. For example, […] we included Dissolve, a one-woman play about sexual assault, as a component of our residence orientation and the event was very well attended.”

According to Chad Jankowski, the health education coordinator at the HCC, Ask First is also coordinated by the assault counselling and education department, as Green Dot was. The HCC also helps promote the campaign in its materials and outreach events.

Meanwhile, at the St. George campus Green Dot has been replaced with Draw the Line, which focusses on sexual violence against women, including empowering everyone to identify and prevent it. “It is not uncommon that after a number of years with one program, we find that another program resonates more with our students,” said Lucy Fromowitz, assistant VP of the Department of Student Life at St. George, in relation to the shift.

A third of Canadian women experiencing some form of sexual violence during their lifetime, and the Ontario-developed campaign encourages individuals to speak up. The website features examples of how to “draw the line”, whether it concerns a person of authority, domestic partner, societal norm, online harassment, or other situation, and provides resources for people experiencing sexual violence to get assistance.

“Students are engaged in this serious issue and we work with our students to ensure that the programming we deliver resonates with them, and has meaning to them,” said Fromowitz.

Time will tell whether these programs have a similar impact or greater longevity at UTM and the rest of the university.

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