Position marshals resources against sexual violence

Paul Mayne // Western News

Angela Treglia, Western’s new Sexual Violence Prevention Education Co-ordinator, acts as a resource for individuals who have experienced sexual violence, as well as for those who are supporting survivors of sexual violence. Her office is located in the new Wellness Education Centre, University Community Centre (UCC), room 76.

Everyone has a role to play in Angela Treglia’s job.

“It’s all of our responsibilities to look at ways we can educate ourselves, and each other, on prevention,” said the university’s Sexual Violence Prevention Education Co-ordinator. “Sexual violence is not a woman’s issue; it affects all of us. We all need to be doing something.”

In the role for two months, Treglia previously worked as a Residence Manager and, more recently, as Program Co-ordinator for Housing and Ancillary Services, where her focus was on sexual violence awareness. She believes her new role is a natural progression from there.

“My passion lies in sexual violence prevention work,” said Treglia, who is on a one-year secondment. “It’s something that really connects for me. It’s a topic near to my heart.”

This new position is something the university, along with the University Students’ Council (USC) and Society of Graduate Students (SOGS), wanted to initiate for some time. Funding from the Ontario Women’s Directorate made the position possible.

“We’ve been pushing for a position like this to ensure that conversations happening on a committee level don’t stay within those meetings,” Alex Benac, USC Vice-President (Internal), said last fall. “We needed someone to enact organized, cross-campus campaigns and that’s where this role comes in.”

Previously, the subject of ‘sexual violence’ fell to a host of departments and individuals across campus. This new role provides a centralized approach for the university.

Treglia is not a counsellor. She acts as a resource for individuals who have experienced sexual violence, as well as for those supporting survivors of sexual violence, by helping them navigate the system. Her work focuses on supporting students who are survivors of sexual violence.

“The survivors who come in my office are such amazing and strong individuals; the resiliency you see and hear, the strength is awesome and very powerful for me,” she said.

While victim focused, Treglia said she would never turn anyone away. She also helps faculty and staff understand how they can better support their students.

“Sometimes survivors don’t want to come into my office because I am a stranger to them. Most will disclose to their friends before going to any sort of authority figure, such as myself, the police or administration,” said Treglia, who promises confidentiality in all her conversations. “Sometimes those friends will be wondering how they can offer support. They can contact me to help them be aware of the resources they can share, so no matter who a survivor comes out to, they get a compassionate response and they (friend) will know who to refer them to.”

Some grant money will be used to improve Western’s Upstander Programming, which aims to develop a culture of looking out for one other on campus. Through training programs, educational videos and awareness weeks, the plan is to have a campus community where students and staff are equipped with skills to intervene in any situation that may negatively impact the Western community.

The need is in the numbers. Studies suggest 67 per cent of all Canadians personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.

“It is not isolated and it is not a new issue. It has been around forever. We are seeing it talked about as more and more survivors are coming forward. That has a lot to do with decreasing the stigma,” Treglia said. “When you look at the statistics, they have stayed fairly consistent over decades. That is troubling. There is a serious issue that has been left unaddressed for so long.”

In recent years, Western has taken a number of steps to prevent and respond to sexual violence, including:

  • Student Health Services operates extended hours including Saturdays;
  • All first-year students attend an information session each September on their rights and responsibilities when it comes to sexual consent – this is on top of the information they receive in residences;
  • The university has a dedicated Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Committee, a working group of the Safe Campus Advisory Partners committee. The committee includes voices from across campus, including representatives from Campus Community Police Services, Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children, Communications & Public Affairs, Equity & Human Rights Services, Housing & Ancillary Services, Indigenous Services, School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, Student Development Centre, Student Health Services, Western International, as well as students and community partners;
  • Students have multiple ways they can report sexual violence, including to the Sexual Violence Prevention Education Co-ordinator, residence staff, Equity & Human Rights Services and Campus Community Police Service; and
  • Western is represented at the vice-president level in ongoing discussions with other Ontario universities on best practices in preventing and responding to sexual violence.

In September 2014, Western adopted its first standalone Policy on Sexual Violence. Prior to that, sexual violence was – and still is to some extent – addressed by both the Code of Student Conduct and Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policy.

All this adds to the mix of a university taking the issue seriously.

“Not to take away from the work that has been done by so many over the years,” Treglia said, “but we are at a stage now where people, the government and university administration are getting involved. A lot of key pieces are now coming together.”

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Located in the basement of the University Community Centre (UCC), the Wellness Education Centre (Room 76) is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Western Sexual Violence Prevention Education Co-ordinator Angela Treglia can be reached at atregli@uwo.ca or 519-661-2111 Ext. 87085. For more information, visit safecampus.uwo.ca/sexual_violence.