Survey targets opinions on sexual violence policy

Western is inviting the university community to answer a survey and take part in focus-group sessions as part of community consultations to update its Policy on Sexual Violence, last revised in 2017.

Starting Oct. 4, Western students, faculty and staff will receive an email invitation to their university email accounts to participate in the survey. The link directs users to log into the site with their university email credentials; responses will be anonymized. The survey also allows participants to add additional comments.

In the past year, Western has taken steps to address the climate of sexual violence both on- and off- campus, including hiring a gender-based violence education co-ordinator in a new staff position, noted Jennifer Massey, Associate Vice-President (Student Experience).

Western has also developed a student support and case-management team, which includes support for survivors of violence, and developed Gender-Based Violence Prevention Task Force.

“I am proud and hopeful about the good work underway at Western. But there is more work to be done. It will take nothing short of courageous leadership and a culture of integrity to make real change on this issue,” Massey said.

She said the university is committed to providing and maintaining an environment in which sexual violence is not tolerated. “Universities are engines of social change, and Western can lead the way forward on this broad societal problem, but only if we bravely acknowledge the challenges we face and commit to action as a collective community.”

That collective commitment includes students’ helping review and improve Western’s Policy on Sexual Violence, she added. “Your voices and experience matter.”

Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Andy Hrymak said the university’s concerted effort also goes beyond the important issue of student safety.

“We’re intent on making this an environment where all students can thrive,” he said. “That means changing the climate of sexual violence that many of our students experience and ensuring Western’s policies and practices align with our aim of making this a welcoming, respectful environment for all.

“We’ve already taken significant steps in the past year to cultivate a campus culture free of sexual violence. We want students to know we’re listening to their voices. We can all do better.”

In a statement released earlier this year, Western said it would expand its efforts to listen to students’ concerns and seek their advice on how to reduce violence and support survivors.

The community consultation process was developed jointly by Western, the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) and the University Students’ Council (USC) with a goal of ensuring diverse voices had an opportunity to provide input.

This review and update of the Policy on Sexual Violence is part of that process. Once the review is complete, the new policy will be put into practice to guide how the university responds to incidents of sexual violence.

“It’s incredibly important that the university continue to promote sexual-violence prevention and support,” said USC Vice-President Cat Dunne in urging undergraduates in particular to provide input into updating the policy document. “Our students play a key role in sharing information and ensuring our efforts best support Western students.”

Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed, VP Advocacy with SOGS, echoed those sentiments and urged graduate students to provide input, as well.

“We can’t emphasize enough on how essential the input of our membership is to this survey. The prevention of sexual violence remains a priority that needs to be seriously addressed by the university. In addition to organizing the annual Take Back the Night event, SOGS is currently collaborating with Student Experience to critically examine the gaps in the current sexual violence policy.”

Initial community consultation (including survey and subsequent focus groups) will run Oct. 7-18, with the revised policy released to community for review on Oct. 24.

Click to here complete the survey.

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IF YOU NEED SUPPORT

If you have experienced sexual violence and would like support from the university, please contact our Sexual Violence Prevention Education Co-ordinator at 519-661-3568 or email svpec@uwo.ca.