SASC offers new workshops to more campus groups, following surge in volunteers

The AMS’s Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) is offering workshops to more campus groups following a recent surge in volunteers.

According to an update from the Centre at the September 26 AMS Council meeting, SASC has seen over 100 volunteer applications this term. Due to capacity, the Centre has since accepted and trained 54 of them.

Dr. Jennifer Gagnon, SASC’s volunteer and outreach coordinator and a political science sessional lecturer, attributed the influx of volunteers to the current “cultural moment” of increasingly awareness and discussion around sexual misconduct and violence.

“With all the media recordings about Kavanaugh, with conversations about rape culture coming into the mainstream, I think there’s a lot of folk saying, ‘What can I do about it?’” she said.

The SASC itself has recently been at the centre of the campus community’s attention following the AMS’s now-reversed decision to cut the Centre’s support services this summer. First announced on June 22, the proposed cuts prompted immediate backlash from the community, leading the AMS to reverse its decision just three days later and issue an apology to community members affected by the decision.

SASC’s new volunteers are allowing the Centre to reach out to more campus groups and offer new workshops, such as a collaboration with the AMS Hatch Gallery’s Our Bodies Are Bodies exhibit and workshops with UBC Improv and AMS peer-support service Speakeasy.

SASC is also collaborating with sororities and fraternities — communities that have faced criticisms for their handling of reports and discussion around sexual misconduct — to run workshops on responding to disclosure, supporting survivors and facilitating healthy masculinities and bystander intervention.

“They aren’t about healthy masculinity directly, but are about how to use masculinity as a lens to talk about cultural norms, cultural scripts, sexual assault and consent,” said Alex Dauncey, the Healthier Masculinities program coordinator.

Dauncey said he has been receiving positive responses from the fraternities, which are echoed by Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) President Jamie Gill.

“The training was absolutely amazing — completely tailored to the fraternity system and had the entire audience fully engaged,” said Gill.

At the first workshop for fraternities on October 3, there were over 100 attendees from Phi Delta Theta and Beta Theta Pi. Moving forward, there will be two different fraternities attending the workshops per week, as the IFC has made these workshops mandatory for its members.

“[They are] a huge step forward for the Greek system as well as the entire university community.”

While Dauncey noted that sexualized violence can happen in any community, he believes that fraternities are in a unique position to take the lead on advancing positive masculinity in the future.

“My big dream is to see members of fraternities start their own projects on masculinity,” Dauncey said.

“This is my call, if you’re in a fraternity and you want to make change around the issues around gender-based violence, sexualized violence or masculinity, come talk to me. I want to help fraternities become leaders in addressing this problem.”