With the return to in-person activities comes a renewed need to face what some have referred to as an epidemic of sexual assault issues on university campuses.
The U of M is currently in what sexual assault advocacy groups have termed the “Red Zone” — the period between the start of the academic year and November. During this period, over half of all college sexual violence incidents take place.
This time period, marked by campus events, parties and an influx of new people is also when new students might be unfamiliar with the security, reporting and support resources available to them.
Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors (REES), an online system for reporting sexual harassment, assault and misconduct, is looking to help. REES is a secure platform that partners with universities to build a tool used to record incidents and connect victims to resources and avenues of justice.
Here on the U of M campus, REES is partnered with UMSU. Partnership liaison Carter Dawson said that “the goal of REES is to provide a survivor-centred approach to reporting.”
Dawson explained that victims of misconduct and violence can visit the REES website, select their campus and create a record of what took place. From there, they can be connected to resources and information. He said that the platform is designed with privacy in mind, so survivors own their reports and REES cannot access or pass on any information until given express permission from the user.
Once the report is made, survivors have a few options regarding what they can do with it. Dawson said that the record can simply be used as a secure journal, but may also be passed along anonymously at any time to administration or campus resource providers — the Sexual Violence
Resource Centre at the U of M — who will follow up on the report. At the U of M, users can also choose to send the report to the police.
“It can take some time to process what has happened, and it can also take time to know where you’re wanting to report or what you’re actually wanting to do with that report,” Dawson acknowledged.
REES will store records for as much time as survivors need to decide on a course of action.
Dawson added that if users choose to submit the report anonymously through REES, data from their records is anonymously aggregated and reported to the administration of institutions. Dawson said that this data helps inform strategies for prevention. He explained that knowing the times of day, areas and events where pockets of harm occur can help campus officials to increase security and create proactive policies to address sexual violence and misconduct.
If you or someone you know on campus has been a victim of sexual violence, the U of M Sexual Violence Resource Centre can be found at 537 UMSU University Centre, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reports can be filed through REES at reescommunity.com/campus.