UCalgary, Mount Royal University and Bow Valley College collaborate to launch a new consent workshop during May’s Sexual Violence Awareness Month

Sexual and gender-based violence rising significantly during COVID-19

May 3, 2021

In Alberta, 45 per cent of adults report having experienced some kind of sexual abuse in their lifetime.* Since 2018, May has been recognized as Sexual Violence Awareness Month in Alberta, and the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and Bow Valley College have formed a partnership to take a stand against sexual and gender-based violence. Together, they will be sharing a ‘Dear Survivor’ campaign, a new consent workshop titled “Rethinking Consent” and the unique supports available to members of each higher learning institution. Most importantly, they are reminding people that campus support is still available during COVID-19 for people who are experiencing sexual and gender-based violence, as well as domestic and dating violence.


"On post-secondary campuses, prevalence rates of sexual and gender-based violence are concerning. Sexual violence affects people of all backgrounds, however, 71 per cent of students on Canadian post-secondary campuses reported witnessing or experiencing unwanted sexualized behaviour in 2019. Sexual Violence Awareness Month is an opportunity to flip the conversation from messages of shame and blame, to messages that offer love, support and compassion."

Carla Bertsch, sexual violence support advocate, University of Calgary


As stated in UCalgary’s Sexual and Gender-based Violence Policy, sexual and gender-based violence means any violence, physical or psychological, that is committed, threatened or attempted against another individual without the individual’s consent because of their sex, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. UCalgary has a duty to promote a safe environment for students, faculty and staff, to learn and work every day. After two years of external consultation, the university introduced its standalone Sexual Violence Policy in June 2017. It aims to address alarming statistics such as four out of five undergraduate students surveyed at Canadian universities reported experiencing dating violence; 29 per cent of them reported sexual assault (DeKeseredy, W.S. (2011). Violence Against Women: Myths, Facts, Controversies. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press). The policy applies to all campus community members including students, faculty, staff, post-doctoral scholars and volunteers, and provides a clear institutional response to reports of sexual violence including sexual assault, increasing clarity for those reporting on the procedures and responsiveness of our university.


"UCalgary is committed to creating a safe campus environment, where survivors are supported and sexual and gender-based violence is not tolerated. Although we are not on campus physically, we are still here to support all community members during this time. There are a number of ways to reach out for assistance and encourage anyone who wants support to do so."

Dr. Teri Balser, provost and vice-president (academic), University of Calgary


Rates of sexual violence and gender-based violence were high before the pandemic and they are even higher now when people have been forced into isolation with partners who cause harm, and survivors have experienced a significant increase in the severity and prevalence of violence. UCalgary, Mount Royal University and Bow Valley College will be engaging with students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral research fellows in sexual and gender-based violence education, awareness and prevention, while underscoring support for survivors of violence.


"Everyone has a role to play in ending sexual violence. Collaborations across institutions are imperative because of how pervasive and systemically rooted sexual violence is. It is always exciting for Bow Valley College, Mount Royal University and UCalgary to work together because we can leverage and build upon the strengths, experiences and expertise that we take from each of our institutions, which is what prevention efforts should look like. Collective efforts are necessary steps towards preventing perpetration from occurring and ending sexual violence both on and off of post-secondary campuses."

Cari Ionson, sexual violence response and awareness coordinator, Mount Royal University


Sexual and gender-based violence doesn't always look the way we might think. We can be active participants in learning about consent and creating safe and healthy communities of care, and sexual violence support advocates on campuses play a critical role to facilitate this learning, provide support and improve awareness of lasting harm caused to individuals who have been victims of sexual and gender-based violence. They provide a safe space where people of all genders, sexualities and backgrounds can find the support and care they need. Whether the incident occurred on- or off-campus, or before someone came to UCalgary, support continues to be available during the COVID-19 crisis.


"One message we relay to those who have been affected by sexual violence is, ‘you are not alone’. This is a powerful message for survivors and can counter negative narratives of judgment and blame that can surround the issue of sexual violence which can lead to survivors feeling isolated and silenced. What this ongoing collaboration says is that we stand with survivors and the efforts of supporting survivors, advocating for change and creating communities of care takes all of us. We are not alone in this work, and change can happen with all of us."

Erin Kordich, sexual violence response advisor, Bow Valley College


If you have experienced sexual or gender-based violence, or know someone who has, visit UCalgary’s Sexual Violence Support website for campus and community resources. You can also arrange a confidential consultation with the university’s sexual violence support advocate, by confidential email. In addition, learn more about Ask First at UCalgary, a collaboration between the Women's Resource Centre and the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club to build a culture of respect at UCalgary, and tear down myths about consent and sexual violence.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Peter Glenn, Senior Media Relations Officer