Data shine light on sexual violence prevention efforts

This week, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) released further data related to the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey that showed the scope of the problem on campuses and gave voice to student demands for better efforts toward addressing the issue.

Western is continuing to advance university-wide efforts to address gender-based and sexual violence – work that must be sustained in order to change an issue larger than any single institution or sector, said Jennifer Massey, Associate Vice-President (Student Experience)

“Western takes this matter seriously and we are continuing to make good strides,” she said. “Gender-based and sexual violence education and prevention takes continuous effort, and the university is fully committed to this work.”

The release breaks down data from the previous survey, conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, to the question-by-question level. Full reports containing all of the survey responses has been posted to the COU website.

“Understanding and addressing sexual violence experienced by our students is a priority for Ontario’s universities,” COU officials said in a statement issued Thursday. “We remain committed to creating safe learning and working environments free from sexual violence, including for those who are especially vulnerable.”

More than 160,000 students participated in the survey conducted between February and April 2018.

While more detailed, the data released today mirror a summary report released by the ministry in March 2019.

Western took the survey responses as a call to action, Massey said.

“At that time, we committed to our students that we would do more,” she said. “Western, along with other campuses right across the province, have been working hard to address gender-based and sexual violence on their campuses. Many of the changes implemented at Western have directly addressed the concerns identified.”

In the past year, Western has taken steps to address sexual violence both on- and off- campus, including:

  • Updating and revising its Policy on Gender-based and Sexual Violence that improves the process for disclosure and support at the university, while also shining a brighter spotlight on education and prevention;
  • Creating a Student Support and Case Management team to oversee the Code of Student Conduct; the team includes a Gender-Based Violence & Survivor Support full-time case manager, to act as a resource for individuals who have experienced sexual violence;
  • Hiring a Gender-based Violence Prevention Education Co-ordinator to lead education and prevention programming including student training sessions, workshops, and events to raise awareness of gender and sexual violence, as well as act as a resource for those who are supporting survivors of sexual violence;
  • Striking a Gender-Based Violence Prevention Task Force;
  • Launching new ongoing programming to address root causes of gender-based violence, including programs focused on bystander training, gender and gender norms, consent and healthy sexuality, male allies, and help for female-identifying students to resist acquaintance sexual assault;
  • Establishing ReShape Week, an educational week focused on healthy bodies, sexuality and relationships, scheduled for Feb. 24-28; and
  • Digitizing educational content to provide greater access to the community.

“If we can help our students become more knowledgeable about gender and sexual violence, our hope is when they graduate and become leaders in their communities that they take that knowledge with them,” Massey said. “That is an important part of our ongoing connection to those individuals and the impact we can have on society at large.”

The university and college data draw attention to the larger issue of sexual violence across society. According to Statistics Canada, more than 11 million Canadians have been physically or sexually assaulted since the age of 15 with more than one million (4 per cent) having been victimized in the past 12 months.

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If you have experienced sexual violence and would like support from the university, contact gender-based violence and survivor support case manager at 519-661-3568 or email support@uwo.ca.