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Photo by Mariah Wilson

On-campus sexual violence support advocate now available to students

By Tina Shaygan, October 5 2017 — 

Students at the University of Calgary now have access to a sexual violence support advocate on campus. Carla Bertsch is taking on the role.

The U of C’s sexual violence policy, which was passed by the U of C Board of Governors in June 2017, created the position. The policy defines the role as “an appropriately trained individual who is designated by the University and who is the recommended first point of contact or referral for any University Community member who has experienced sexual violence.”

“I saw the role and honestly thought they drafted the job description for me,” Bertsch said.

Bertsch’s background is in the areas of domestic violence, mental health and education. She added she also has ample experience working with the LGBTQ community.

“My role is to provide one-on-one support, education and advocacy to people on campus,” Bertsch said. “I can provide confidential consultation and assistance to folks around reporting processes and navigating options, whether that is on campus or off campus.”

Bertsch added that she can help students obtain academic accommodation if needed.

Bertsch added that this year the U of C will start monitoring the number of disclosures and formal reports of sexual violence on campus.

“What we know is that numbers do not reflect the reality of the situation because this is an under-reported crime,” she said. “This is the year we’re going to be monitoring very closely with the new position and the policy.”

Consent Awareness and Sexual Education (CASE) club vice-president external Shannon Hawthorne said she thinks the role will have a positive impact on consent education around campus.

“I think it will make a huge difference just having that role known on campus,” Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne said that Bertsch met with CASE to discuss being involved with the club’s events and initiatives, such as their annual Bermuda Shorts Day campaign and volunteer training. She added that she hopes the U of C will provide Bertsch the opportunity to define the role of sexual violence support advocate as she sees fit.

“It’s just really important for students to know that there is this role on campus. [Bertsch] is very friendly, very approachable,” Hawthorne said.

Bertsch said she is looking to connect with different on-campus groups, such as LGBTQ, Indigenous and international students.

“I just really want people to know that the role is here to make it easier for people to come forward and get the support they need,” Bertsch said.

Bertsch’s office is located in Mackimmie Block 204. She can be reached here.

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