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This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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Establishing a culture of consent on campus

February 12, 2020

by Julianna Cougle

According to a recent province-wide survey, approximately 63% of the 116,000 university students who completed the survey had experienced some type of sexual violence, and 49.6% of 42,000 college students reported the same (OHS, 2019). Of course, with such disturbing results, funding has been targeted towards more security measures. Though, with all of these security measures in place, why is sexual violence still prevalent? It is important to note that many of these measures, resources, or policies are not often promoted or explained. It is safe to say that awareness and education on the available supports, resources, and procedures is an underutilized key to help prevent sexual violence. So, let’s start with the basics...

The "basics"

What is sexual violence?

Acts of sexual violence can be defined as behaviours against the psychological and bodily integrity of a person that may or may not involve force, which may target the person's sexuality, gender, sexual identity and/or sexual orientation verbally, physically or through various visual materials and means of communication. Such action occurs without the consent of the recipient. It is determined not by the intent of the assailant, but by the impact it has on the victim.

Examples of sexual violence

  • Distributing personal photographs without permission
  • Inappropriate comments or “jokes”
  • Indecent or sexualized exposure
  • Online sexual harassment
  • Rape, (date rape, marital rape, partner rape, stranger rape, rape where there are multiple perpetrators)
  • Sexual abuse, assault or harassment
  • Stalking
  • Voyeurism

Who can experience sexual violence?

Sexual violence can happen to anyone, however, the majority of statistics we see are only police-reported and these statistics only account for less than a quarter of sexual violence incidents. The vast majority of sexual violence crimes go under-reported across the nation, as an example, less than one in ten incidents of sexual violence are reported to the police and date rape being the most under-reported crime in Canada. Women, with the highest rates of being exposed to this type of violence, are less likely to report sexual assault and other forms of violence due to either the stigma or victimization they could possibly experience if they choose to disclose.

Campus response and support

Ontario Tech University provides several avenues of supports, resources, and formal resolutions to assist students and staff who encounter sexual harassment or assault regardless of whether the incident happened on campus, off-campus, or online. But first, let's start with the nitty-gritty and the one thing we can, of course, all agree that we love - policy. First and foremost, Ontario Tech University is committed to maintaining a healthy and safe environment throughout the campus, any act that perpetuates sexual harassment, assault or violence will not be tolerated. Therefore, the university’s response towards any of these actions include:

  1. Condemning all acts that perpetuate or reinforce sexual violence and hold individuals who perpetrate such acts accountable;
  2. Helping those who have experienced sexual violence by providing supports and services, regardless of whether or not a report is filed;
  3. Helping the university community to oppose sexual violence through proactive educational programming; and
  4. Continually improve how the university addresses sexual violence by examining the efficacy of programming choices, how support is provided, and how students use services and resources.

With the awareness of policy, we can dive into the supports that are available to allow individuals to heal or report the incident. Once an individual is ready to disclose an incident, they can connect with a Support Worker to access appropriate resources. If it is determined that the incident should be reported, Support Workers can refer you to a Case Manager, however, both can help with navigation through the reporting and investigation process. Depending on the resolution you wish to seek, a Support Worker can assist you to select an option to meaningfully address the incident of sexual violence and/or domestic violence. Regardless of the route that is pursued, you have a right to confidentiality and respect.

Building a safe, supportive and consensual campus culture

Establishing a culture that respects and supports consent should be centred on mutual understanding, knowledge, and agreement of each other's boundaries and limitations. It is a culture where no one is forced into anything and a collective understanding that a person is the best judge of their own wants and needs. Consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not automatically apply to any other sexual activity at any other time.

Awareness and education surrounding sexual violence, resources and supports require “staying power”. Staying power often involves persistence and a bit of repetition in order for us to build a retrievable memory, this is similar to when you’re trying to memorize a term or formula you aren’t familiar with before that huge exam. All in all, a safe campus and community requires everyone to be aware of what sexual violence is, how it can be prevented, and how we can provide support to those who have encountered it. If you haven’t experienced sexual violence, it is very much likely that someone you know has, so, if you wish to support someone who has encountered sexual violence, it is important to keep SCOPE in mind:

SCOPE

Self-care: Whether you’re a survivor or a support person for a survivor, always remind yourself that you are worthy and deserving of care and respect.

Compassionate Listening: To listen without judgement and allowing a survivor to disclose their story on their own terms. Nothing should ever be forced.

Offer Support: The survivor is the first person to determine what type of support is best suited for them. As a supporter, explore the resources available on-campus or within your community to help them connect with the support they are comfortable with.

Patience: Recovery is a process, not an event. Allow survivors to determine their own timelines to heal.

Expertise: There should never feel as though there is an expectation for you to have all the answers. Seek out professionals on-campus or throughout the community to answer questions about reporting options.

Reporting sexual violence

Reporting sexual violence can be an intimidating and confusing process, so I created a sample flow chart that outlines the process of reporting and identifying sexual violence on campus:

Step 1: Identifying sexual violence

  • Sexual violence is any unconsented sexual act that targets an individual based on their sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression. Examples:  indecent exposure, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, stalking, and voyeurism.

Step 2: Disclosure

  • All Ontario Tech students and faculty have the choice to initiate the conversation and story surrounding their experiences.
  • If you choose to disclose an incident, you will be provided with available supports and professionals who can further investigate the incident if need be.

Step 3: Access to the supports and resources

  • For students who have experienced sexual violence or domestic violence, services are available to support you. You will be heard, believed and assisted in going through the options that are available to you. As a discloser, you will be in charge of decisions regarding how you want to address your concerns and will be empowered and supported in any decisions you make.

Step 4: Reporting

  • Through a Case Manager, students can initiate a review of the incident, explore formal and informal resolution methods (depending on severity), and can choose to participate during the investigation process.

Resources

For more information on the Sexual Violence Policy and what options are available to students who have experienced sexual violence, contact the studentlifeline@ontariotechu.ca or call 905.721.3392.

Connect with a Support Worker