Medicine Hat College (MHC) is pleased to announce the approval of a new stand-alone policy on sexual violence. Many educational institutions around the province are moving to add this type of policy to their institutional guidelines, and MHC is the first college in Alberta to do so.
“This is an important policy to have on paper at Medicine Hat College, and even more important to implement,” says president and CEO Denise Henning. “In 2015 Dr. Trent Keough, president of Portage College, and I spearheaded this issue at the Alberta college level, and that initiative resulted in the Alberta Sexual Violence Exchange Network.”
Post-secondary institutions around the country have started to adopt similar policies and, in some cases, have been legislated to do so by their provincial governments. The Alberta government has not taken that step to date, partly due to the proactive measures of the network.
Irlanda Price, associate vice-president of student development, claims the network was helpful in developing the policy. “This network of 26 institutions provided a wonderfully collaborative setting in which everyone was working toward a common goal,” says Price. “We came away from the network with a shared glossary of terms related to sexual violence – which is an important element for students, staff and faculty who might transfer from one institution to another within the province.”
Price led the taskforce that developed the MHC policy over the last year, which underwent a rigorous consultation and review process with both internal and external stakeholders. “By putting this policy in place we are taking a strong stance against sexual violence and supporting education around the issue.”
The official signing of the policy is not the end of the work on sexual violence at MHC. There will be an extensive campaign around understanding consent, and efforts to educate faculty and staff on how to support survivors who disclose an assault.
“Putting this policy in place is not an indication that we have a problem at Medicine Hat College, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist in our community,” explains Price. “We need to foster an environment where sexual violence is not tolerated, where survivors feel safe reporting the crime, and where everyone knows how to support those survivors in their time of need.” Other post-secondary institutions that have implemented this type of policy have reported increased rates of disclosures, and Price hopes MHC’s policy will have the same impact.
The college employs counsellors on campus to assist students with a variety of issues and these individuals were involved in the development of the policy. The Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC) was also a helpful resource to the taskforce.
Price confirms that the college will refer any sexual violence survivors to the support team at SARC, and continue to work with the provincial network as each institution goes through their own development and approval process. “So many people were involved in getting the policy this far. Thanks to the efforts of the taskforce, the exchange network, our community partners and those who have asked tough questions along the way, we have a solid policy and clear path forward.”
“Medicine Hat College is a safe campus.” assures Henning. “But research estimates that one in four Albertan women have been a victim of sexual violence. We want to educate our employees and our students about sexual violence and its consequences and arm them with knowledge that they can use further than the boundaries of our campus.”
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