Interview with Calista Stoyles
Last month, Augustana students raised concerns over anonymous sexual assault allegations posted on the popular social platform, Chillabit. The Medium interviewed Calista Stoyles, co-chair of the Augustana Sexual Assault Committee, to learn about how the group intends to support students, provide consent education and create safe spaces.
What is the Sexual Assault committee and what role do you play at Augustana?
The Augustana Against Sexual Assault Committee is an organization on campus, made up of students at Augustana who are passionate about spreading awareness and educating individuals about sexual assault. Considering our committee is rather unknown at the moment, our goal is to be acknowledged more on campus and be known as a resource for individuals looking for supports or information regarding sexual violence.
We are unable to provide any counselling to individuals or survivors because the committee is run by undergraduate students, so our primary focus is education and reducing the stigma around sexual assault. We want to make sure people view Augustana as a safe, supportive environment and that survivors of any violence or assault feel they have resources and options available instead of feeling like they are alone.
How does the Sexual Assault committee raise awareness about sexual assault on campus?
Rather than focusing on raising awareness specifically regarding sexual assault and surrounding our goals to adhere strictly to the statistical data, the focus of the committee lies in educating the population about the multifaceted issue of sexual violence on college campuses. This involves much more than showing people the numbers; it includes things like creating environments where survivors or individuals feel they can disclose their experiences, as well as informing people about consent and what constitutes as sexual assault.
The lack of understanding surrounding sexual assault is quite remarkable. The committee is by no means experts on sexual violence or sexual assault, but each member is passionate about making a change across campus and making it a goal for a safer environment.
Our main event happening this semester to raise awareness is the Sexual Assault Awareness Week happening the first week of April. During this time we will have events such as meditations and safe areas for individuals across campus to raise awareness of the issue. We will also be having a “Take Back the Night” Walk in which we will be inviting people to walk around Camrose to raise awareness of sexual violence in the community.
Other than this significant event, we hope to be posting resources and more information around campus to give people easier access to resources and information.
When anonymous allegations (from platforms such as Chillabit) arise, especially against an anonymous member of the ASA, what action should we take, if any?
Because the allegation was anonymous, there is a limited amount of options available. The committee is not directly affiliated with the ASA however, allegations of any nature occurring on campus should be taken seriously. There’s an assumption that because Augustana is such a small campus, sexual assaults don’t occur here but that is not the case.
Unfortunately, there’s no direct action that we can take because of the anonymous nature of the accusation. However, this should be a wake-up call for college campuses and people everywhere to truly understand the definition of consent and the nature of healthy, non-coercive relationships. We need to continue the conversation surrounding sexual assault to ensure that people are getting educated and the stigma surrounding survivors is eradicated, and these individuals feel the support they deserve.
What resources are available for students on campus?
For students seeking support after having experienced the trauma of an assault, Augustana campus has several options. There’s a pdf handout available on the Augustana website under “Health, Wellness, and Accessibility” that lists the resources and options available which include counselling on campus with one of the two counsellors available and pastoral counselling. There’s also the protective services office available on campus that you can contact to disclose a sexual assault.
Augustana also has access to the Sexual Assault Centre at north campus and all of the resources available there. I’ve contacted the team of volunteers at the centre, and they are more than willing to send individual’s down to Augustana if a survivor requests someone and is unable to make the travel to Edmonton.
If a student experiences sexual assault, what should they do?
Students who have been sexually assaulted ultimately have the decision on how to handle the way they deal with their experience. The trauma experienced by each individual is unique, and it’s imperative that they handle their recovery in the way they see fit.
They have several options available; they can choose to disclose to a trusted individual and say nothing after that. If someone discloses an assault to you, it’s very important that their choice is respected and you don’t push that individual into doing anything that makes them uncomfortable. If they do want to report, however, they can choose to do so by contacting the protective services on campus or going to the police. If they require medical attention, the St. Mary’s Hospital is also an option. The counselling services at Augustana are also available for people seeking support.