OUSA responds to the government announcement on sexual violence prevention

March 19, 2019

TORONTO, ON -

Content Warning: this press release contains upsetting subject matter regarding sexual violence.

Today, the Ontario government announced the summary results from the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey, including responses from over 160,000 post-secondary students 117,000 of whom were university students. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) believes that releasing the results summary is a step forward in continuing the dialogue about the climate of sexual violence on campuses. However, OUSA is deeply concerned about the degree to which students experience sexual violence and urges the government to take greater action to end sexual violence on campus.

In November, OUSA met with over 60 MPPs at Queen’s Park to raise the profile of a number of issues, including the need to end sexual violence on campuses across the province and release the results of the climate survey. The government’s commitment to increase the Women’s Campus Safety Grant’s (WCSG) funding to $6 million is a step toward safer campuses; however, the government must also adapt the terms and conditions of the WCSG to address the need for sexual violence education, bystander intervention training and other interventions, and program evaluation on university campuses. Further, OUSA stresses the need for the government to clarify the metrics that universities must use when reviewing their sexual violence policies, as well as the work that institutional task-forces must complete to address sexual violence on university campuses. Students urge the Ministry to continue to work with the Information and Privacy Commissioner toward the release of the complete survey results while protecting the privacy of participants. Without access to the complete data, OUSA and other student advocacy organizations cannot make informed, evidence-based recommendations.

“All of our member student associations have reached out to our respective university administrations to discuss the results of the survey and how to work with our students to address these findings on campus,” said Stephanie Bertolo, OUSA board member and student at McMaster University. “We hope that by working with our institutions, this data can help us understand how to better support and protect students with a survivor-based perspective.”

Students want greater oversight to ensure that grants like the WCSG support evidence-based, trauma-informed, and survivor-centric efforts. At OUSA, we believe that to build safer campuses, our institutions need guidance from the province as well as policies that prioritize the safety and autonomy of survivors. Students want to emphasize how vital it is that this information be presented in a transparent and accessible way. Without consistent data collection and reporting mechanisms, information on sexual violence may be skewed and/or limited. All sexual violence survivors—regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ability, or heritage—should be supported in ways that allow them to seek justice in meaningful ways and safely pursue their education.

“These survey results should draw everyone’s attention to the fact that sexual violence​ is a real issue on campuses. Unfortunately, these results confirm the concerns students have been voicing on our campuses for years,” said Julia Gollner, OUSA Vice President Administration and Human Resources and student at Queen’s University. “To fully support students, a more complete understanding of the data is needed.”

The survey results highlight the need to take immediate action to address sexual violence on campus. OUSA recommends that a new Sexual Violence Prevention Unit be established within the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; Smart Serve Ontario be extended to include sexual violence training and prevention programming; capital project funds be made available to build and maintain safer campuses. To read OUSA’s full stance and recommendations on sexual violence prevention and response, find our policy here.

We recognize that the subject of this announcement may trigger strong emotions. If you or someone you know requires support, please consult the resources below:  

 

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OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.

 

Deborah Lam
Operations & Communications Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
416-341-9948
communications@ousa.ca