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I’m sure at some point every student has thought about doing some version of a research project; whether it be a thesis, an independent research project, or a community-based research project. What they don’t tell you is that it is so much more than a project you work on for eight months. This project has consumed so much of my time over the last two semesters, and has allowed me to interact with so many new people. Not only did I branch out to communicate with staff on campus, but I also took on a project that required me to write articles, which is something I would never have normally done. This project has had its ups and downs, from topic changes to delays caused by just about everything the world has thrown at me. While researching, I have learned so much about the school and community I belong to that my whole outlook has shifted. Although there may be a whole new list of unanswered questions, I did answer some of the original questions I started with. Sexual violence is a problem around the world, and unfortunately that also includes Trent and the Peterborough/Nogojiwanong community. Although this type of research is the “unsexy” side of forensic science, and there is no cool lighting with slo-mo shots of me taking my sunglasses off, it is still just as important as the things you see happening on TV.
Through my research, I found that Trent offers a wide array of sexual-violence resources on campus, however there is not really any common knowledge of these resources among students. This may be because students aren’t looking for them simply because they don’t need them, or because they are not being advertised in effective ways. Either way, more can be done to ensure that we, as students, can access care when needed. One thought that occurred to me while going over my findings and writing my final report is that as Trent grows in population, so does the need for resources. In the four years that I have been a student here, I have noticed the population increase significantly, to the point where residence is no longer guaranteed to first-year students. Have our resources grown at the same rate as our student population? If they have not, then how are our students being supported, whether it involves sexual violence or not?
It is obvious that some students are just not interested in learning about resources; if they don’t need them, then they aren’t going to go out of their way to access them. However, not all sexual-violence resources on campus are designed for survivors. Programs such as bystander intervention training can be used by anyone in many different situations, and could potentially save someone’s life. We need to hold our peers accountable for their actions, and if that is by learning how to stop a potentially dangerous situation, then that is something that should be done. The STEPS (Skills To Enhance Peer Support) certificate that is offered through student affairs is an amazing resource offered to Trent students, but isn’t well known. Through a series of five workshops (bystander intervention, how to support a friend who has experienced sexual violence, active listening and conflict resolution for peer supporters, safeTALK: suicide intervention training, and LGBTQ2S+ allyship training) students can add transferable skills that they can use in many different situations. If I had known about this program earlier in my school career, I know I would have wanted to develop these skills further.
Although there is still a ton of unanswered questions, I feel proud of the work that I have done and the groundwork that I have laid for the possibility of a project branching off. I would like to take a moment to thank all the individuals who helped me over the course of this project: Ryan Sission from the Trent Community Research Centre, Dr. Joel Cahn of the forensic science department, and Leina Amatsuji-Berry and Lubna Sadek, projects hosts and the editors of Arthur.