SFU students (from left) Joy Marlinga

SURREY IN FOCUS: Making campus a safer place

SFU students parter with Surrey Women's Centre to address university safety.

Each time she stayed late at school to study, she’d plan ahead.

Not because she had to be home at a certain time or arrange a ride with a classmate. But because she was concerned about her safety when she left.

Joy Marlinga, a fourth-year business major at SFU, says when she used to study at the Burnaby campus until 1 or 2 a.m., she’d either park her car on the top floor of the parkade – a better lit and more visible area – or find a spot close to the door so she wouldn’t have to walk far by herself at night.

She knew there were security guards that would be happy to accompany her, but like many students, often wouldn’t bother.

While Marlinga’s fears have never come to fruition, they are not unfounded.

Statistics show that nearly one in five women will be assaulted during their undergraduate years, and of those, 80 per cent don’t feel safe reporting their experience.

The figures are ones the Surrey Women’s Centre (SWC) knows well.

So when Marlinga and three SFU classmates – Neha Noor, Scott Hirsch and Rizwan Qaiser – were tasked last spring with coming up with a business project with a non-profit organization, the idea of working with the SWC developed organically.

What followed were a series of “coffee houses” at the Surrey and Burnaby SFU campuses with a dual purpose: raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and collect emails from participants interested supporting SWC and/or in participating in a survey about campus safety.

“We realized that university campuses are a target for those who are assaulted because there’s minimal light late at night and a lot of unsupervised areas and so we wanted to bring that forth with the survey,” Marlinga said.

The survey includes general queries addressing student perception of their safety on campus, as well as more specific questions about the accessibility of transit and lighting.

Sarah Watts, community giving liaison with SWC, said while men are sometimes victimized, women are more often the targets.

“If we look at the rates of sexual violence, it’s definitely more of a female issue.”

That said, the students and SWC are cognizant of the positive role men can play.

“Whether it’s a male who could be sexually assaulted in the future, or they have a female friend confiding in them about an abusive relationship … at least that person has the resource for their friend, for their cousin, for their sister,” said Marlinga.

The survey (at http://bit.ly/1WJI9e1) will be up until at least late October.

“We’ll be in touch with the school administration and the SFU Women’s Centre, so we’ll forward the results to them,” said Watts, adding there may also be workshops created for SFU staff on how to recognize abuse.

And, she noted, though the study only involves SFU at this point, it’s “definitely something that could be transferred to other universities.”

For every person who completes the campus safety survey, $1 will be contributed by an anonymous donor to the SWC’s 24-hour crisis line (604-583-1295).

 

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