Issue #2: Sexual Violence on Post-Secondary Campuses

In recent years, greater attention has been given to recognizing the prevalence of sexual violence on post-secondary campuses. The issue has been thrust into the national spot light by several high profile events, including pro-rape chants during Frosh Week at the University of British Columbia and misogynistic Facebook posts by Dalhousie dentistry students. Access to information and services, and subsequent response by service providers and police has also been problematic. In order to respond to high risk situations amongst youth, comprehensive policy, support centers, education, and resources must be available and promoted at every post-secondary institution across Canada. Recently, many post-secondary campuses have reformed their offices, policies and support centers in this area due to requirements by provincial governments. However, there remain numerous post-secondary campuses across the country with limited or non-existing resources and supports in this area

In 2015, the CBC did a survey of reported sexual assaults at Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions. You can review it here.

Access to information and services, and subsequent response by service providers and police has also been problematic. An individual’s experience will largely be shaped by the cultural atmosphere around them, where they are located, and the breadth of post-secondary policies and systemic support services that are offered.

As a result, experiences with securing support vary widely. In order to respond to high risk situations amongst youth, more consistent, and comprehensive resources are required, that must be accessible to everyone. This can include comprehensive policies, support centers, education, and resources. Effective and available support systems are also integral to helping a survivor heal.

Key Stakeholders

Affected Groups:

  • Students & women
  • On post-secondary campuses, special attention should also be given to Frosh week events, social events, residences, campus security, reporting procedures, educational campaigns and training, and overall safety mechanisms on campus.

Party Platforms and Positions:

  • Some provincial governments in Canada have required post-secondary institutions to have policies that focus on gender-based violence response and prevention. These include: British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec.

Decision Makers and Responsibilities:

  • Ministry of Public Safety,
  • Minister of the Status of Women
  • Provincial and Territorial ministers of education
  • Universities and colleges’ boards of directors
  • Professors
  • Canadian Federation of Students
  • Sexual assault prevention and response centers

Other Key Players:

  • Campus community resource centres
  • Women’s rights groups and collectives
  • Human rights and conflict management offices
  • Students’ unions

Current Policies, Government Strategies

There is significant variation on the existence and content of these policies across the country. While some provinces have enacted their own legislation on this topic, others have remained silent. This is largely due to the reality that education falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. This means that every province and territory in Canada takes an individualized approach to education, as enacting stand-alone policies on required services and education addressing gender-based violence in post-secondary is at the jurisdiction’s own power and discretion. As a result, these provincial and territorial governments can be approached and advocated to individually.

It is important to advocate for a national strategy. Through framing sexual violence as a public safety concern, which creates the opportunity to advocate to the federal Minister of Public Safety, who is responsible for ensuring proactive and reactive safety structures and tools exist in all communities. The federal Minister for the Status of Women would also be a key office to engage for such an approach.

Grassroots organizations

Action: Disclosure & Response to Resisting Institutions

Unfortunately, some post-secondary and other institutional settings may fail to recognize or acknowledge the experience and realities of gender-based violence that are occurring. This stems from the culture disregarding survivors, rather than believing them. If this happens, there are some important actions that you can take:

When someone discloses: If someone discloses an incident of violence to you - believe them (even if you university does not). It is important to listen and validate their feelings. Also ensure that they know their options: counselling services are widely offered by post-secondary institutions, medical care is also widely available (you can go to an Emergency Room following an incident of violence for treatment and care), and legal action is also available. Many post-secondary institutions will have different forms of Human Rights and Conflict Management Offices where you can report an incident of violence. The police are also available to file complaints. If you are supporting someone in their experience, you can go alongside them in this journey through these different mechanism. Remember, it is up to a survivor to decide if or how they want to report.

If your post-secondary/institution fails to recognize the issue: If your post-secondary or other institutions fails to acknowledge the reality of gender-based violence occuring, there are many actions steps that you can take:

  • Raise awareness of the issue and educate students about how to obtain consent
    • This can be done through tabling, offering workshops, and conducting social media campaigns
  • Advocate to the institution about the realities occurring and gaps in services and programming
    • Continue to advocate to your institution about what is going on. This can include sharing your insights about what the reality is in the institution, how it impacts learning and safety, and what you need help from then on. The more advocacy that you do, the greater attention that you can garner from them. This can include using social media, talking with local newspaper, and letter-writing campaigns to administration
  • Organize initiatives that help fill gaps in programming
    • This can include creating workshops to offer as programming, offering bystander, intervention training on campus, creating policy through your students’ union and student representatives that serve to proactively address and respond to gender-based violence, or even starting your own self-care and gender-based violence resource room
  • Be present at social events

Feature: In Quebec, Bill 151 has been created to mandate educational institutions to create and implement policy that serves to prevent and combat sexual violence by Sept 1, 2019. Institutions are required to update and report to the government on their development. The Bill also stipulates required aspects of these policies for institutions, including security measures, complaint processes, training and support staff. The Bill also enshrines a provincial Minister with the power to supervise institution, and offer compliance mechanisms.

Key Stakeholders

Affected Groups:

  • Students & women
  • On post-secondary campuses, special attention should also be given to Frosh week events, social events, residences, campus security, reporting procedures, educational campaigns and training, and overall safety mechanisms on campus.

Party Platforms and Positions:

  • Some provincial governments in Canada have required post-secondary institutions to have policies that focus on gender-based violence response and prevention. These include: British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec.

Decision Makers and Responsibilities:

  • Ministry of Public Safety,
  • Minister of the Status of Women
  • Provincial and Territorial ministers of education
  • Universities and colleges’ boards of directors
  • Professors
  • Canadian Federation of Students
  • Sexual assault prevention and response centers

Other Key Players:

  • Campus community resource centres
  • Women’s rights groups and collectives
  • Human rights and conflict management offices
  • Students’ unions

Current Policies, Government Strategies

There is significant variation on the existence and content of these policies across the country. While some provinces have enacted their own legislation on this topic, others have remained silent. This is largely due to the reality that education falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. This means that every province and territory in Canada takes an individualized approach to education, as enacting stand-alone policies on required services and education addressing gender-based violence in post-secondary is at the jurisdiction’s own power and discretion. As a result, these provincial and territorial governments can be approached and advocated to individually.

It is important to advocate for a national strategy. Through framing sexual violence as a public safety concern, which creates the opportunity to advocate to the federal Minister of Public Safety, who is responsible for ensuring proactive and reactive safety structures and tools exist in all communities. The federal Minister for the Status of Women would also be a key office to engage for such an approach.

Feature: Justice for Women is a student-led organization in Manitoba that serves to proactively combat, and effectively respond to gender-based violence on campus. Within three years, the group created Consent Culture Workshops  to education students about sexual assault and consent, a Safe Socials and Safe Socials Policy that mandated student leaders across every faculty receive a consent education and learn about the tools that they can use to mitigate the risk of sexual violence from occurring in student-run events, and created a Self Care and Sexual Violence Resources Centre where Justice for Women volunteers offered resources and support for all students on campus.

Feature: Ontario is a leader in this area. They have passed Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexal Violence and Harassment), 2016. This Act mandates that:

  • Every post-secondary institute have a sexual violence policy
  • Every post-secondary institute consult and consider student input in the development and renewal of these policies
  • Every post-secondary institute implement a sexual violence

Feature: OurTurn is a national, student-led action plan to end sexual violence on campus, and offers a comprehensive report on the strength of policies and programs of the largest post-secondary institutions across Canada.

What is being done now?

Post secondary institutions

  • Some have adopted comprehensive strategies on topics, women’s groups, student unions, community clinics, women’s centers

 

gbv