Photo by Lauren St. Clair
Photo by Lauren St. Clair

Last year, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) moved into the Nicola Residence building, and began their time as UBC’s sexual response office. Their creation came from UBC’s Policy 131, titled Sexual Assault and other Sexual Misconduct, which came into effect in May 2017. The policy was the result of months of work to create a new sexual assault policy for UBC and UBCO, discussing topics such as disclosure, allegations, support for accusers, and so on. The second point of the policy called for a Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office for each campus, an office dedicated to collecting information, advising, and assistance to those who experience sexual misconduct, while also reporting statistics to UBC.

Initially, the SVPRO did not start off to with great start. Many students were unaware of where they are, what they did, and even who they were. This year, however, the SVPRO has made a startling comeback, beginning with their “We Believe You” campaign.

According to Shilo St. Cyr, the director of the SVPRO: “This ‘Believe You’ campaign is an SVPRO-led initiative partnered with the university and UBCSUO and will run until the end of October. It really was initiated by what we are hearing from survivors, #MeToo, and other movements…. SVPRO wants to foster a collective responsibility for the safety and support of survivors.”

St. Cyr stated that the SVPRO is encouraging staff and students of UBCO to make our campus a safer place, and that more from the campaign will be revealed in October.

As for how the SVPRO has worked to improve their visibility this year, St. Cyr says: “It starts with the one on one support and advocacy we provide survivors…. We also concentrate on building relationships with various services groups on and off campus that survivors might access. The various UBCO departments (Health and Wellness, Student Housing, Communications), student leaders, SARA, UBCSUO, Elizabeth Fry Society... have helped inform people of our services and create awareness and opportunities for referrals.”

Along with this effort to increase awareness of their services, St. Cyr emphasized that their goals include initiatives, events, and campaigns surrounding survivors, who are at the center of all their work.

The importance of the SVPRO cannot be understated. St. Cyr explains, “at SVPRO, survivors don’t have to share their stories over and over again to various people to get help. Now survivors reach out to the SVPRO just once to get that support, reporting options and accommodation with school, housing and work while remaining totally confidential.”.

Despite their lack of visibility and awareness last year, the SVPRO has worked hard to emphasize this importance, and to ensure that all students are aware of who they are and what they do.