On Nov. 24 Wilfrid Laurier University will finalize its new Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy. This policy is the first of it’s kind for the university, standing alone outside of the Student Codes of Conduct and workplace safety policies.
According to a CBC news report, Ryerson University had the highest number of reported sexual assaults in a Canadian university from 2009-2013 with 4.778 students out of 10,000 reported sexual assaults. Not all post-secondary institutions provided reports publicly or make them . Laurier rates are of 1.341 sexual assaults per 10,000 student over the same time period. While most universities in Ontario have stand alone policies, there are still many colleges and universities who do not.
“I think some of our commitments to education and how we’re defining gendered and sexual violence sets us apart,” said Lynne Kane; manager of gendered violence prevention, response and support. “I also think that a lot of the universities are having some of the same struggles and conversations about policy as well.”
According to Laurier’s website, some of the highlights from the policy include a commitment to survivors and their rights, commitment to sexual health education and the principles of that education (the culture of consent, challenging myths, understanding trauma and promoting positive bystanders behaviour) and a “description of confidentiality, scope, and principles that the procedures should follow.” As well as outlining the policy, the document also details the procedures of a report, a complaint, the investigation process, and the appeal process.
When asked to describe what Laurier defines as consent Kane said, “active, ongoing, not the absence or no, verbal or nonverbal, continuous, uncoerced, enthusiastic.”
On Nov. 2 at 5 p.m., Wilfrid Laurier University held a town hall forum to showcase a draft of its new policy and procedure. The forum was held for the purpose of allowing students and faculty members to voice their input and suggest changes to the draft.
During the forum, there was feedback from a group of Brantford students, called Advocates for Student Culture as Consent (ASCC), who began researching and developing a gendered violence policy in class and have continued their work in advocacy about gendered and sexual violence since then.
“In this kind of a setting it felt easy and comfortable to speak at this particular forum,” said Taylor Berzins, a representative of ASCC. “Do I think my feedback is going to be implemented? Not necessarily just based on the fact that this policy is going to be for the board of governors on the twenty fourth and that’s really soon.”
This policy and procedure comes after Bill 132. This law requires post-secondary schools to have a standalone sexual violence policy, aside from the codes of conduct many schools already have in place. In addition, universities must finalize the document based on feedback from the campus community and must be revised every three years.
According to sexassult.ca, one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. According to Statistics Canada, about one in ten sexual assaults are reported to police based on a 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization and in 2008, women reported sexual assault ten time more than men with 68 female reported sexual assaults and six male reported assaults. The report also stated that 72 per cent of survivors confided in friends and 41 per cent turned to family and other informal sources of support.
“I think these new policies and procedures will really have an impact on how many people come forward about this kind of violence.” said Jason Morgan an attendee.
For someone looking to receive support involving gendered or sexual violence they can contact the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant 24-hour crisis and support line: 519 751 3471. or the on-campus Sexual Assault Centre Counselling and Advocacy.