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Online Reporting Of Sexual Violence On Campus Set To Launch

Written by: Mary Lobson, Founder of REES

In 2016, I had the privilege of spending time with Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino when I invited them to come to Winnipeg to launch Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Their stories were featured in The Hunting Ground, a film about campus sexual assault in the US and we held a screening in partnership with the University of Winnipeg. At that time, they were also releasing their book, We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out. 

In our few days together, I soaked up their energy, enthusiasm and passion for change. They spoke of everyday activism and the opportunities that exist for creating safer campuses. We talked about transparency, accountability and our responsibility to create learning environments that are free from sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Fast forward 4 years and REES (which stands for Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors) is set to launch on campuses in Canada. REES is a centralized reporting hub available 24/7 that provides information about campus sexual violence policies, direct reporting options, campus and community resources, health care options, and self-care. REES is customized to the specific institution and community where it is located.

The online reporting platform for sexual violence is trauma-informed and centred on the needs of survivors. The platform was developed in collaboration with survivors, students, staff and faculty, campus and community-based sexual assault services and law enforcement. REES will be available at 11 universities and colleges across Manitoba this fall. The Manitoba pilot is funded by the federal Department of Women and Gender Equality.

The online platform provides choice to survivors by offering increased pathways for reporting that include Anonymous Reporting and Connect to My Campus. Survivors can choose how much information they share, when and to whom. REES also offers a Report to Police function that is optional for institutions should they want to partner with their local law enforcement to receive reports directly. The platform is encrypted and survivors’ privacy was considered in all aspects of the design and development.

The option of Anonymous Reporting creates opportunities for both survivors and institutions that do not currently exist. It offers survivors the choice to provide anonymous report data without including identifying information or initiating a complaints process. For institutions, it creates a consistent and coordinated process for centralized data collection, reporting and public disclosure.

After each academic term, we will share the Anonymous Report data with our post-secondary partners. We believe that this will provide valuable information that can inform the development of policy and best practices, identify gaps and trends, increase prevention initiatives on campus and promote accountability.

Student engagement is essential to the work that we do. Currently, we have summer students from the University of Manitoba, Concordia, Ivey Business School at Western University and Red River College. We have also established a Youth Advisory Board for ongoing collaboration and consultation with students and youth from universities and colleges across Canada. Through meaningful engagement with students and partnerships with leaders at post-secondary institutions, we will work together towards transformative change in addressing campus sexual violence.

To become a REES campus, or for more information, contact us at hello@reescommunity.com.

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Suggested Citation: Lobson, Mary. (2020, July). Online Reporting of Sexual Violence On Campus Set to Launch. Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/REES

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Mary Lobson

Mary Lobson is the Founder of REES, an online platform for reporting sexual violence. Mary has 25 years of experience working on gender-based violence initiatives and founded two not-for-profit organizations in Manitoba. Mary is a board member of the Ending Violence Association of Canada, a member of the Divison Sexual Assault Investigative Review Committee, and a member of the Steering Committee, Regional Council and Partnership Board of RESOLVE; a prairie-based post-secondary research network that coordinates and supports research relating to gender-based violence.

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