CCASA opens satellite site on campus

Cari Ionson - CCASA satellite site
Cari Ionson is the first person to hold the position of Sexual Violence Response and Awareness Co-ordinator at Mount Royal University. ~ Photo by Bryan Weismiller

Calgary's primary sexual violence resource centre now offering counseling servicesMount Royal University and Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA) are teaming up in a first-of-its-kind partnership between a post-secondary institution and the city's leading agency in the field of sexual violence.

Mount Royal is now a satellite site for CCASA, an organization that offers educational resources, specialized counseling and group support to survivors of sexual violence.

As of 2016, an expert from CCASA comes to campus once a week to meet with people impacted by sexual violence.

It's CCASA's first satellite site at a post-secondary institution in Calgary. The arrangement is aimed at providing more resources where students learn, live and work.


To book an appointment, call:

Mount Royal Student Counselling Services at 403.440.6362

CCASA support and information line at 403.237.5888

More information can be found online:

Student Counselling Services
Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse

"When young people go to school - that's their world," said Danielle Aubry, the agency's executive director. "It's stressful enough to go for sexual abuse counseling.

"In partnering with Mount Royal, our primary goal is to ease that stress by making the services more available to the community."

The partnership between organizations extends back several years to the early days of Stepping Up, Mount Royal's peer-led dating violence prevention program. That relationship has been strengthened through other joint initiatives, including the 2015 #IBelieveYou educational campaign.

Bringing a sexual assault worker to campus is the next step in addressing an issue that has been raised at universities across North America.

Understanding the nuances, variances and complexities of sexual violence requires considerable expertise, said Cari Ionson, Mount Royal's first Sexual Violence Response and Awareness Co-ordinator.

"We are working collaboratively to ensure that there's a presence and specialization on our campus," said Ionson.

In January 2016, Mount Royal created Ionson's full-time position to enhance the supports for survivors and help formal processes around disclosures. Having worked for agencies on the frontlines of sexual violence such as CCASA, Ionson brings a wealth of firsthand experience to the job.

She believes in a client-centered and trauma-informed approach that recognizes the widespread responses to sexual violence. Ionson is currently working with advocates on campus, who are staff members trained to support those who come forward with disclosures.

"We are building Mount Royal's capacity to support people who have experienced sexual violence," she said. "People must feel empowered to come forward with disclosures to allow us to support them in the best possible way."

By breaking down the stigmas associated with sexual violence, Ionson expects the number of reported disclosures to increase.

That's a good thing, according to the experts. Sexual violence is widely recognized as a severely underreported crime - both on and off campus. Schools with higher reported rates are often viewed by experts as environments where students are more comfortable coming forward.

Aubry, the longtime head of CCASA, applauded Mount Royal and other post-secondaries for showing increased leadership.

"I like the shift we're seeing," she said. "People are saying that sexual violence needs to be addressed, rather than saying it's a reputational risk.

"Quite frankly, if I'm a donor or my kid is going to a university, then I want it to be a place where - god forbid something happened - they have good resources to get help and they have the backing of their institution. It's a totally different way to look at it."

There are two ways to book an on-campus appointment with a CCASA sexual assault worker. Arrangements can be made through Mount Royal's Student Counselling Services in the Wellness Services department or through CCASA.

April 5, 2016 — Bryan Weismiller