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Sexual assault awareness campaign gains momentum in time for arrival of new students

CRIME PREVENTION OTTAWA, in collaboration with the Ottawa Hospital, has broadened the scope of its “don’t be that guy” ad campaign, which seeks to tackle issues of sexual violence amongst young adults.

The ads’ bold images feature scenarios involving possible rape and/or sexual assault and have already been featured in local bars but will extend to OC Transpo buses this fall. The ads will be on more than 800 buses in addition to the distribution of paper posters throughout the city.

The campaign, which originated in Edmonton, has gained notoriety for its use of provocative images and blunt text that target potential offenders of alcohol- and party-related sexual assault. While students are not the only targets of the campaign, Nancy Worsfold, executive director of Crime Prevention Ottawa, said bus ads were intentionally released to coincide with frosh week and the arrival of new students.

“They do have concerns about young people being away from home for the first time,” she said, “because so many of the victims that they see in the emergency room are young and there is a component of either drugs or alcohol involved.”

The Ottawa Hospital saw 168 cases of sexual assault in 2012, not counting  unreported assaults. Worsfold showed concern that the issue of non-consensual sex and rape are not being taken seriously by young people. She used the recent controversy surrounding orientation week at Saint Mary’s University as a point of reference, during which student leaders were criticized for reciting a rape-themed frosh chant.

“I think that most parents nowadays talk to their sons and daughters about drinking and driving,”  said Worsfold. “But, equally, parents need to be having this conversation about drinking and sexual assault. Because it is far too big an issue and we don’t have those conversations.”

Kelsey Munro, a first-year business student said she responded positively to the ads after seeing them during her first week at the Univeristy of Ottawa.

“It’s definitely good for university students to see this kind of ad because I feel like some people aren’t necessarily aware that this can happen,” she said.

After the initial run in the fall, the “don’t be that guy” ads will return to OC Transpo buses for four weeks in the spring. For the time being, Worsfold hopes the fall campaign will inspire students to discuss issues surrounding alcohol and drug-related sexual violence.

“You don’t change society in one poster,” she said. “But you do at least move the conversation forward.”