It is a work in progress.

Last September, the police began investigating four reported sexual assaults at Western University. This tragedy has brought up an issue that not only concerns Western, but all universities in general. 

Approximately, 1 in 10 female students are sexually assaulted in a postsecondary institution and around 600,000 sexual assaults happen every year in Canada with a median age of victims from police-reported sexual assaults being 18 years old.

In an interview via email, Laura Salamanca, a representative of Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, has said that universities in Canada still need a lot of work on preventing sexual assaults.

When asked about solutions on battling against this violence on campuses, Salamanca says “Universities could work closely with their local sexual assault centre (SAC)… They can find their local one by checking out the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres. Many universities have partnerships with their local SACs, but many do not.” 

Laura also goes on to say, “I believe it would go a long way if universities made it mandatory for students to learn about consent, healthy relationships, and equity… There should be clear policies about how to deal with sexual violence, and a framework of support for students who are involved.” 

An issue that takes all of us

A strategy implemented by University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College to combat and educate about sexual violence was launching an educational module focused on Sexual Violence, It Takes All of Us, that has been created developed by KnowledgeOne in collaboration with Concordia University making it available to every student in both institutions to access it.

In an interview via email with the coordinator, Sexual Violence Prevention and Education at Humber, Aaron Brown, says that the program provides the universities as an additional tool within to the institutions’ toolbelt to educate students about consent, sexual violence, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors of sexual violence

Brown says that as COVID-19 has made it harder for students all to gather in person for training and learning opportunities about these topics, the It Takes All of Us module became an additional way to connect with students in their own time to do some learning, explaining why it was only launched now.

When asked why the program is not mandatory, Brown goes on to say that when modules focused on this type of issue can consequently be triggering and harmful for those who have experiences or have been impacted with it.

Although the educational tool is available to everyone in both campuses through CourseLink, Brown is unable to know if everyone is aware of it, but also says via email that the Consent Peer Education Program and Student Life at University of Guelph-Humber have been promoting the module.

However, how the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College deal directly with the issue still is unclear to students, though they seem aware of the new module on CourseLink. 

Kristina Strachan, 19, a student at University of Guelph-Humber on her second year of Family and Community Social Services, says that she’s not sure how Guelph Humber University deals with the issue of sexual assault. However, she says has heard of the It Takes All of Us tool on CourseLink. 

Bianca Navia, 18, another student at the UofGH on her first year of the Early Childhood Education program, also said that she is not sure how the UofGH directly deals with the issue of sexual assault. But she has said that she’s well aware of It Takes All Of Us and believes that even though she is not sure how the University handles the issue, this module is already a big helpful step to prevent it.

At the University of Guelph-Humber, sexual assault is handled by the Humber College department, these cases are directly handled by a Student Support and Intervention Coordinator (SSICs). In an interview via email, Bianca Scotland, one of the coordinators from the Student Support Intervention, explained how the process of managing these cases goes.

 “Once a student connects with a SSIC, they have access to ongoing support, as they require/desire. A student is provided with options for moving forward with a report, should they choose.  They may file a report with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) or the Office of Student Community Standards (OSCS) which is then investigated through the Code of Student Community Standards.  They may choose to file a report with the police and can receive assistance from Humber/UofGH to do so,” Scotland says. 

 She goes on to say, “A survivor has access to support, resources, and academic accommodations even if a formal report is not filed.” Scotland also said that there is no linear process to reporting sexual violence since not all cases are the same. 

“The survivor decides how they would like to proceed with reporting (should they decide to), depending on the outcome they desire. The survivor is able to explore one or multiple options at the same time,” she says, “referrals to legal and health support/advocacy, both on and off campus, referrals to Counselling Services, health services and accessible learning services, housing and financial resources and options, support with accessing temporary academic or internship/workplace considerations, if required safety planning, providing self-care resources, explaining options and next steps etc.”

Scotland explains that the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College provide multiple supports to the survivors through the SSIC team regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.  

It seems that both institutions do not acknowledge that not every student is aware of how they handle an issue that not only concerns universities, but society. However, the ‘It Takes All of Us’ module is already a welcome change to address this serious topic and to make progress on a battle against something that takes everyone to address it, learn about it and solve it. 

If you are a victim of any kind of sexual violence, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of these resources: