You are not alone: Support for survivors on campus

Sexual Violence Prevention front desk CREDIT: EMMA BUTLER
The head of Sexual Violence Prevention at Fanshawe College Leah Marshall, has been helping students for eight years.

College students can be victims of sexual assault on or off campus. The question is, do they know how to cope with the trauma they are left with?

The head of Sexual Violence Prevention at Fanshawe College, Leah Marshall, has been doing this for eight years. Over the years, the program has had to change to cater to new issues.

“My role is to support any student of any gender identification or non-gender identity, that has experienced any gender-based violence or sexual violence either before they came to Fanshawe or while attending college,” said Marshall.

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Marshall explained how they can help by having options. One of many options students have is personal counselling. That refers to confidential professional free counselling offered by registered psychotherapists and registered social workers. Another program that Sexual Violence Prevention provides is regional sexual assault and domestic violence treatment at St. Joseph’s Hospital. This entails services such as forensic evidence collection, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and much more. These services are confidential and free of charge.

Gender-based violence or assessment violence can take many different forms, ranging from sexual, online harassment, transphobia, homophobia, physical acts of violence and many more, according to Marshall.

“How we help victims all depends on their needs. I am there to help and create a safe place for any student who needs it within these standards. We give the victim all the outlets to help them to heal and we do not force them to do one thing or the other, meaning that if counseling is what they need and not to make a police statement then that is OK,” Marshall said.

According to Marshall, sexual assault and gender-based violence are not about sex at all, but about power and control. It is very important when it comes to healing that the survivor has control over what happens next.

A former Fanshawe student, who has asked to remain anonymous, shared their story about how they were sexually assaulted when they attended college and how the Sexual Violence Prevention team helped with their journey of healing.

“Leah Marshall was great, she helped me tremendously,” they said. “I was sexually assaulted and did not want to press charges, I started to fall behind in class, I started to use drugs to help me cope with what I had went through. When I got in touch with Leah, she came right to my dorm and we talked and talked and man, did that help me. She talked with my professors to explain as to why I was falling behind. If it wasn’t for Leah I don’t know how my outcome would have been.”

The student explained how the Sexual Violence Prevention team helped them on their journey to recover and how to heal in a healthy and controlled way.

Being a survivor of an act like this will always stay with you for the rest of your life. The thing you need to remember is how to conquer it and control it.

“My advice to any survivor of sexual assault would be to talk,” the former student said. “The more you talk about it and can see how to move past it and not hold it all in, the better you will heal and be able to move forward in your life. I will live with this for the rest of my life, but I don’t let it define me and I will not let it control me. It has been over five years since the attack and I think back to how it controlled me for a while before I reached out and got help. Remember that you aren’t alone and people will listen, you just have to find those people.”

“I lost many friends and even my boyfriend due to the fact that they didn’t know how to deal with my situation. I think it’s really important for survivors to find the right people to share their stories with. That was the hardest part for me, I had one friend who was there for me and even laid in bed and missed classes for me,” the former Fanshawe student said.

If you are in need of any of these services, the Sexual Violence Prevention office is located in the F Building at Fanshawe room 2010, and the best way to set up an appointment at lkmarshall@nullfanshawec.ca.