Two new programs to combat cyberviolence against women and girls

Mike Carson newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on August 1, 2014
Federal Minister of Labour and the Minister of the Status of Women, Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, (centre) chats with Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, Paul H. Schurman and Andy Lou Somers, executive director of the East Prince Women’s Information Centre, Friday in Summerside, prior to an announcement by Leitch of federal funding for two programs to deal with cyberviolence against young women and girls. 
Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE – Two programs aimed at eliminating cyberviolence against young women and girls are moving ahead on Prince Edward Island.

 

The East Prince Women’s Information (EPWIC) and the Prince Edward Island Rape and Sexual Assault Centre are receiving federal funding to develop their programs.

“It’s a whole new techie world and it’s moving too fast and we’re not keeping on top of it,” said Any Lou Somers, executive director of EPWIC. “We need to get a handle and find out where we can best serve to deal with it. For the past three years, we’ve done workshops and Nancy Beth Guptill, Sweet Spot Marketing, has done over 20 workshops in the schools across the Island and more workshops for the parents, guardians and service providers on cybersafety. Each time she finished a different session she would say we have so much work to do in this area.”

EPWIC’s plan involves a partnership, a needs assessment, knowledge sharing and then a strategy to deal with cyberviolence.

When the federal government came out with “Cyber and Sexual Violence: Helping Communities Respond,” its plan to combat cyberbullying and promote cybersafety, it fit in well with the work being done by EPWIC.

Somers said within two months of applying, the funds were approved.

“It was too good to be true,” she said. “We had been discussing how we could get funding for this for at least the past two or three years.”

The project is going to have four phases.

“The first phase was getting partners,” Somers said. “Getting partners was the least thing we had to worry about. As soon as we sent notices out to potential partners everyone said yes.”

The next phase is doing a needs assessment.

“We will be doing a needs assessment across the Island and across Canada and other areas to see what’s happening, what policies, what legislation, what they’re doing, what’s working and what isn’t working,” Somers said. “It will be put together over the next year and shared with all of the partners. Some strategies will be developed from that needs assessment. Over the next two years we will be doing a lot of work in a lot of communities across the Island with focus groups and online community surveys and other things as well.”

The third part is knowledge sharing

“When the needs assessment is done we’re sharing with all of our partners and different community stakeholders and asking for their input to come back to us to help develop the strategy,” she said.

The strategy is the fourth part and it will be developed in conjunction with the stakeholders and information garnered at the workshops.

“It’s not brand new but it’s a newer form of violence and there’s not really any legislation or policy in place,” Somers said. “Even the city (of Summerside) said they would like to get some policies in place. It will help with things like that when we get the needs assessment done. It will show where are the gaps are where there needs to be things done. From all of the workshops we’ve done over the last three years in our schools, we’ve had parents and everybody contacting us saying what things are happening with their children and how can they help them monitor them.” 

The P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre will use its funding to work with community partners to develop a collaborative strategy that will promote a consistent response to sexual assault victims across P.E.I., as well as improving victims’ access to support services.

EPWIC receives $173,338 and the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre was given $134,685 for their projects.

The funding is provided under the Status of Women Canada’s call for proposals entitled “Cyber and Sexual Violence: Helping Communities Respond.”

mcarson@journalpioneer.com