In Focus News

Trumped Up Triggers

[box type=”info”] Trigger Warning: Sexual violence. [/box]

(Photo: Kristen Thompson)
(Photo: Kristen Thompson)

In recent months, the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment has been prevalent in the media. With the constant coverage of cases including those of convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner, President-elect Donald Trump, Jian Ghomeshi, and Bill Cosby, the conversation around sexual assault is everywhere
On university campuses, the issue of sexual assault is always a topic of conversation, and with the conversation flooding students’ social media, victims’ reactions are becoming an increasing concern.
A CBC study compiled the number of reported rapes in universities across Canada between 2009-2013. Mount Saint Vincent University reported two, the University of King’s College reported five, Saint Mary’s University reported thirteen sexual assaults, and Dalhousie reported 38, with eight assaults reported in 2009 alone.
“It’s sick,” says Mikayla Thomson, NSCC student and sexual assault survivor. “They are just feeding [the public] the dramatics as if it was a reality TV show without thinking of how it is actually affecting people, especially survivors.”
Lucy Coady, a student at the University of King’s College disagrees. Coady believes there should be trigger warnings in place to protect survivors, but at the same time it is important that public knows about these actions.
“We can’t be ignorant to the facts,” says Coady. “The media should report on the good and the bad.”
However, the coverage itself can sometimes be a trigger.
Registered Counseling Therapist Barry Nahirnak has treated student survivors and seen first-hand the effects of sexual trauma.
“In my experience, [victims] generally demonstrate a range of emotions, as this type of violation affects each individual uniquely,” says Nahirnak. “Often victims will discuss feelings of shame, low self-worth, depression, and a lack of trust in their current interpersonal relationships. It is very important to acknowledge all of these issues and to not minimize the pain and long-term impact sexual assault can have for survivors in the aftermath.”
The universities themselves are struggling to deal with the problem.
Dalhousie used to offer a Sexual Assault & Harassment Phone Line, but the service was shut down on November 3 after disputes between the Student Union and the university. The Union demanded the school pay 100% of the funds needed to keep the phone line running, instead of the 50% the university had been previously providing.
The conversation around sexual predators and sexual assault can present triggers to victims. With the limited number of services provided by the university for victims, students are forced to find support by other means off campus.
Where can you go for help?
Avalon Sexual Assault Centre:
The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre can provide a number of coping strategies such as court support, support groups, and therapy for women and transgender survivors. All of the support provided is confidential and free-of-charge. They also run The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE), which provides examinations and rape kits for survivors immediately after an assault.
Dalhousie Counseling Services:
Dalhousie offers counseling services with registered psychologists, the first six sessions of which are free.
The Mobile Crisis Team:
The Mobile Mental Health Crisis Team is a team of dedicated mental health professionals and police officers who can be called anywhere in the province in the case of a mental health emergency.

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