Summer (Retreat) Reflections

Hello hello! Apologies for the delay in writing but I’ve been frantically working on a systematic research review (in the form of a comprehensive exam). It is temporarily off my plate, at least until I defend, so I have some time to catch up on my blogging. As some of you may know, I’m part of a working group at the university that is developing a sexual misconduct policy for the campus. It’s been interesting work, very neat to see how things operate behind the scenes. As a result of this work, some interesting opportunities have come my way.

Most recently, I was invited to attend the Student Affairs Summer Retreat. The topic was sexual violence on campus and the facilitators were Dr. Dusty Johnstone, Dr. Anne Forest, and Dr. Charlene Senn (my esteemed supervisor) – a kick ass team if I do say so myself! Reflection the first – it’s not a retreat if it starts at 8:30am. Misnomer!  The day started with a discussion of sexual violence myths and facts, followed by an overview of the wonderful bystander education work that’s being done at the U. It’s an exciting time on campus! Dr. Senn indicated that the bystander workshop has now been given to enough students that we’ve reached a tipping point on campus where change to the broader climate seems possible. I look forward to the results in the years to come. The conversations in the morning were great and I think people felt comfortable to ask questions and have their beliefs challenged. Some of the biggest challenges were people’s beliefs about reporting. Reporting a sexual assault should always be the choice of the survivor. The process is grueling and the outcomes are often not what is hoped for. Encouraging survivors to report to protect other people makes them responsible for another person’s victimization and takes responsibility away from the person who is committing the assaults. Although this may come from a good place, it is not a helpful response. One really fantastic question was about the difference between a disclosure and a report. A disclosure is informal and a report denotes something formal. Everywhere, but especially in our roles on campus, it’s important to respond to disclosures with support (e.g., is there anything you would like me to do?), active listening, and without judgment. Remember not to act on behalf of the survivor (without their permission) or act beyond your expertise.

I had many more thoughts about the day, but those are just a few of the most important. It was great to see the campus come out and stay engaged for an entire whole day about such an important issue.

Coming up next weekend is APA – very excitingly, in my hometown of Toronto – where I will be presenting a poster (on Thursday), be serving on the APA Twitter Team (#APA2015) and as an APAGS Ambassador. I’m looking forward to another great convention. After that I will be defending my comprehensive exam in Windsor and then moving into my first house in Toronto. A busy busy month!! I’ll try to update as much as I can, but definitely look out for my convention tweets from August 6-9th.