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U of C needs more dating violence awareness

By Tina Shaygan, March 28 2017 —

Canadian universities are implementing programs and making progress on raising awareness about intimate partner violence. But there is still a lack of support and information on how to help those who leave abusive relationships.

In my teenage years, my then-partner threatened to tell my parents intimate details about our relationship if I broke up with him. Threats like this — which is only one small example of manipulative behaviour — keep people trapped in abusive relationships for too long. We need resources and awareness for what to do in these situations. 

People who leave abusive relationships often face stalking, threats and other forms of violence. There is a lack of support systems in place to help people facing with these situations. I had no idea who I could go to when my partner threatened me. Frankly, I still don’t know. And when I called various authority figures about potential stalking threats, I was told to “just block him on Facebook.” For some people, a lack of family support can make this an even uglier situation.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a woman is killed approximately every six days by her intimate partner. Since 2013, young Canadians are the most frequently victims of intimate partner violence. Relationship experts agree that leaving an abusive relationship can put the leaving partner in life-threatening danger. In fact, the Canadian Women’s Foundation states that 60 per cent of dating violence happens after the relationship has ended.

Incoming Students’ Union vice-president student life Hilary Jahelka campaigned on bringing Stepping Up — a dating violence prevention program — to the University of Calgary. Stepping Up is a provincially funded, peer-focused program that is currently in place at the University of Lethbridge and Mount Royal University.

If implemented, Stepping Up will be the first program of its kind at the U of C. Its arrival is long overdue.

The Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club has made some positive changes at the U of C. The sexual violence policy was consulted on this past year and according to Jahelka, a sexual violence advocate position is being created on campus as a resource for students.

“You can go to campus security, but at the same time that might not be the way you want to take your healing journey. So having someone on campus who is there to advocate for you, I think is really important,” Jahelka said.

Jahelka said the U of C has made improvements over the last few years, but there is still work to be done.

“There is always more to showcase that we are here to support students,” she said. “We’ve definitely come a long way even just within the last couple of years. But what do you do afterwards? How do you deal with it afterwards?”

We must do more. While the U of C has has implemented many  positive changes, there is a still a lack of awareness and support systems for those who leave abusive relationships. Measures such as increasing awareness of existing services, or talking about the issues more openly will go a long way. To truly combat intimate partner violence, we can’t abandon those who step out of an abusive relationship. 

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