Women speak out

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By Susana Gómez Báez

A new campus-based sexual-assault hotline is launching this week to give students a way to discuss and seek advice about sexual assault and gender-based violence.

Run by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and the Women’s Centre, the hotline will be a supportive ear to discuss personal experiences, not as a way to report crisis situations. Lines will open on Feb. 5.

According to Gilary Massa, the Ryerson Student’s Union equity and campaign organizer, the hotline is not just for victims.

“[People] may just want to talk to somebody or they may be calling to ask for help,” said Massa Approved at the RSU’s 2010 semi-annual general meeting, Ryerson’s sexual assault support line works by forwarding calls to the student volunteers’ phones.

As it stands, the support line has 15 student volunteers ready to answer calls. All volunteers taking calls are women, but students of any gender identity are welcome to use the resource.

The students were chosen through an interview process and with the help of the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, have been training since September to direct calls to the right resources.

Margaret Arnason, the training coordinator at the Assaulted Women’s Helpline said,

“The helpline is really about your ability to listen and your ability to support.” She said volunteers will make people aware of choices they have to handle situations. Arnason said that all of the student volunteers are from Ryerson so that callers feel more comfortable.

“Somebody who goes to this campus or knows the campus would have a better understanding of what you’re talking about,” Arnason said. “Or sometimes you want to talk to people your age who are not your family or your friend.”

Each student volunteer will also have the contact information of a worker at the Assaulted Women’s Helpline whom they can phone for support and mentorship while they are on-call. The RSU spent $1,000 of its budget in the creation of this support line.

Posters have been placed across the student centre to inform and encourage people to fight gender violence and call for help when they need it.

Amira Jiwani, a second-year radio and television arts student, said she’d consider calling it but has reservations. “There’s always nervousness about the privacy issue,” she said.

“Or there’s a fear that people would be calling as a joke.” “We need to get people to be a part of the conversation,” said Melissa Palermo, RSU vice-president of education.

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