NEWS
09/02/2015 10:59 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 01:12 EDT

Dalhousie University to launch sex assault, harassment phone line

For the first time, students at Dalhousie University will be able to access a 24-hour sexual assault and harassment phone line.

It's a a pilot project that the Student Union hopes become a permanent fixture at the school.

The volunteer-run service starts Sept. 6 and runs until Oct. 14, coordinator Rebecca Rose told CBC's Information Morning on Wednesday.

So far, about 40 student volunteers have committed to the project and have taken a 16-hour training course.

Volunteers are provided with cellphones, so they can take the calls from anywhere, to provide support.

"Informally we all hear of friends, colleagues, classmates that have dealt with sexual assault and harassment," says Rose.

Dalhousie Student Union vice president Kathleen Reid says the pilot project is almost entirely funded by the student union and has been in the planning stages for about a year.

Program costs about $40K a year

They hope if there is a demand for the service, the university will pick up the cost of running it on a permanent basis.

Rose is the only paid employee and running the program on a permanent basis is estimated to cost about $40,000 a year.

The phone line is anonymous and people can call in with issues of assault weeks, months or years after the actual incident.

"The phone line is there as a peer to peer active listening support for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, gender-based violence or harassment," says Reid.

Rose says, as far as she knows, there is no service like it at any other university in the province.

"It's a soft place to land. You kind of get to get it out, then get referrals," she said.

"So we will refer people if that is required, but we can refer people to counselling or to a peer support group, what ever works of them."

Rose said a campus-wide marketing blitz is planned for this week to get the word out to students.