How an online tool aims to empower survivors of sexual assault on post-secondary campuses

WINNIPEG — Using the veil of privacy provided by the internet, a Manitoban is creating an online reporting tool for sexual violence in the hope the web-based platform will empower survivors and create safer post-secondary campuses.

In many cases in Manitoba, reporting a sexual assault needs to be done in person, but soon students attending most post-secondary schools in the province will have more control when reporting sexual violence.

Mary Lobson is the project manager of Rees – short for Respect Educate Empower Survivors – the online reporting tool for sexual violence that will be released to nine post-secondary campuses in Manitoba this fall.

“We don’t require any identifying information to actually make an account or use the platform,” Lobson told CTV News. “The only time you need to provide information is if you are wanting to reach out and get support.”

The website is designed to put users in touch with supports and information specific to their school, and the option to share their story.

“It’s really up to the survivor how much information they want to share, to whom they want to share it and at what time,” Lobson said.

She said each term, anonymous data sets will be given to schools to provide them with concrete numbers of when and where sexual assaults are occurring.

Allison Kilgour, a law student at the University of Manitoba and the advocacy coordinator for Students for Consent Culture, says this platform is a win-win.

“It’s going to provide autonomy and choice and options and support for students, and it’s also going to give institutions the ability to receive and track data that they never really had the option to track before,” Kilgour said.

Lobson said Rees will also create consistency between schools that currently use different tracking methods. She said she hopes the platform will lead to more incidents getting reported and allow survivors to report assaults on their own terms.

“That’s what’s important, is giving survivors options,” Lobson said.