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Draw the Line Activist Delivers Powerful Message to Sheridan Students

October 15, 2015

Julie Lalonde, an award-winning activist and public educator on the subject of sexual violence, delivered a free lecture on October 14 at Sheridan College.  The event took place at the Hazel McCallion Campus in Mississauga, and was also live-streamed to all Sheridan campuses.

Lalonde developed and manages 'Draw The Line', an interactive campaign that aims to engage Ontarians in a dialogue about sexual violence. The campaign challenges common myths about sexual violence and equips bystanders with information on how to intervene safely and effectively.

In her presentation, Lalonde focused on the issue of bystander intervention when it comes to preventing sexual violence.  Using humour and, at times, frank language to get her message across, she discussed why individuals often fail to intervene to stop an assault from happening:  the so-called ‘bystander effect’, where individuals think “someone else will do something”, or “no one else is intervening, so why should I?”

She went on to offer three steps that one can take if a potential assault is suspected:  call out the behavior of the perpetrator; support the person being targeted; and/or speak out. 

Lalonde stressed the importance of supporting the targeted individual, citing the examples of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, two young victims of suicide who felt unsupported by their friends and communities when sexual images of them were broadcast through social media.  On the subject of ‘sexting’, she emphasized that while sexting may be consensual, sharing images without consent is a form of sexual assault.

Lalonde also shared some disturbing statistics:  one in three Canadian women and one in six boys will experience sexual violence in their lifetime; less than 10% of assaults are reported to the police; and a minute proportion of these proceed to criminal trial resulting in convictions. The “Draw the Line” campaign aims to counter the prevalence of sexual violence through community engagement and education.

Sheridan launched its own comprehensive sexual assault policy in March of this year, and more recently introduced the Dare to Care campaign, built on the concept of bystander training, which teaches people how to be proactive in helping others in need. The name Dare to Care was selected to purposely challenge individuals to speak up when they see or hear something concerning and to lend a hand to students or colleagues who may require assistance.