Training in consent, personal safety and gender-based and sexual violence awareness and prevention has begun for all Western students in residence.
The mandatory module is part of a new student safety action plan Western has launched in response to concerns about sexual violence and student safety on campus. While the training is starting in the residences, the goal is to make it mandatory for all students, with additional training eventually developed for faculty and staff.
The training includes a combination of in-person discussion of content, skill-building activities and some online education.
“We have heard clearly there are gaps in some students’ understanding of the meaning and impact of gender-based and sexual violence, as well as opportunities where we at Western can underscore its seriousness,” said Terry McQuaid, director, wellness and well-being. “Events of the past several days have made us re-examine the prevailing culture on campus and identify areas for improvement to ensure the safety and security of our community. This enhanced training is one crucial element of our commitment – as individuals and as an institution – to listen better and do better.”
Developed in consultation with Western Student Experience and Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children (CREVAWC), training will be required for all 5,300 students living in Western’s 10 residences.
Beginning in floor meetings this week, residence dons will facilitate discussions with students about support and available resources.
Multiple sessions will be made available to ensure all students can participate based on their schedules.
The sessions are designed to help students:
- understand what constitutes gender-based and sexual violence;
- build skills in how to identify consent and sexual coercion;
- know how to handle disclosures and how to intervene and provide support; and
- develop ‘upstander’ skills that build a culture of looking out for one another and proactively helping others in need.
The curriculum will cover gender-based and sexual violence as a societal issue and its impact. It will also include rape culture, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual violence, consent, the law and Western’s gender-based and sexual violence policy.
While consent education has been part of student orientation for several years, it will be built up significantly, said Chris Alleyne, associate vice-president (housing and ancillary services) and acting co-associate vice-president (Student Experience).
“For this education to influence behaviour change, this work will be ongoing and professionally facilitated, with a view to truly influencing behaviour change through education. These are important, additional steps to reduce violence and to support survivors. Unequivocally, we agree this must be a priority,” Alleyne said. “Everyone is entitled to a home, a school, a workplace where they are safe from harassment, violence or the threat of violence.”
The enhanced training is part of a comprehensive review and reassessment of safety measures and policies in place to protect students and the entire campus community.
Last week, Western president Alan Shepard announced a new safety action plan that included enhanced security support with the hiring of up to 100 safety ambassadors in residence, additional security patrols and more special constables.
A new Task Force on Sexual Violence and Student Safety will also be convened in consultation with student leaders, and will examine policies, practices, campus culture and programming.
The education module will be conducted by trained gender-based violence educators in residence-specific sessions and is designed to provide a safe space for everyone to take part in the conversation.
Private counselling supports and information will also be made available for anyone who needs it.
Attendance will be recorded and will be a requirement of living in residence and of continued enrolment at Western, Alleyne said.
The module could then be customized for wider implementation across the campus community.
“It’s essential from the outset that students be provided with clear messages and opportunities to understand about consent, sexual violence, and how bystanders to violence can take action and offer support,” said CREVAWC director Katreena Scott.
“We know sexual violence on campus is a significant problem and it’s something all universities need to get a handle on,” Scott said.
CREVAWC has worked for years with Western Housing to provide information about sexual violence to aid residence dons and residence staff.
Scott said CREVAWC has a wide range of materials, developed with survivors. “We’re in full support of this initiative and we’re going to work together to make sure the material is on point to the situation.”
That includes helping students have intentional conversations they might have missed during the past 18 months of online schooling – conversations about healthy relationships, healthy masculinity, being able to recognize one’s own and others’ risk factors and speaking out when talk or behaviour is inappropriate.
Follow-through on a survivor-centric approach is also key, Scott said. “People need to be believed and they need to have control over next steps. As much as we would like to see swift and sure justice, we also need to ensure that control of this part of the narrative belongs to the survivor, not the institution.”
CREVAWC is a national and international leader in research on preventing gender-based violence and sexual assault and supporting survivors.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, Western has survivor-focused supports in place, including a dedicated gender-based violence and survivor support case manager. Survivors have support options, including disclosure, filing a complaint and/or requesting support. In emergency situations, Western’s Special Constable Service and St. Joseph’s Health Care Regional Sexual Assault Program are available 24/7. Anova (formerly Sexual Assault Centre of London) also operates a 24/7 support and crisis line at 519-642-3000.
Students in residence can also contact their residence don, front desk, and residence life coordinator for assistance with understanding their options, and have access to free, confidential services with the residence counselling and student support team. Residence counselling is also available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Special Constable Service - For reports of sexual violence and domestic violence, Western Special Constable Services will connect you with the local police service. If calling from on-campus landline, call 911 or x83300, and if calling from off-campus, call 519-661-3300.
Western Foot Patrol – The safe walk service is currently running Monday to Thursday from 8 p.m. until midnight. Campus community members can request a safe walk by calling 519-661-3650 or chatting with an online dispatcher through the foot patrol mobile app.