Sex assault response training rolling out on Ontario campuses is ‘critical’
By: Lisa Xing
Students who come forward about their experiences with sexual violence on campuses should be met with a supportive response, according to researchers at Western University, who are launching a training program across Ontario campuses.
The « Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence » training was developed over three years by a team at the university’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children.
« It’s critical, » said project manager Barb MacQuarrie. « We really need this training. »
The training consists of videos of a wide range of students of various abilities, races, genders and sexual orientations disclosing or reporting an incident of sexual violence, and examples of supportive responses:
- It’s not your fault
- It must not have been easy to come to me with this
- This guy has no right to post those pictures of you
And unsupportive responses:
- How were you dressed?
- Are you sure it was a rape?
- Sending those photos of yourself to anyone is never a good idea
‘It can do great harm’
MacQuarrie said if a survivor does not receive a supportive response, a person can shut down and never tell anyone again, or wait a long time to tell someone. She said a negative response can also reinforce self blame.
« It can do great harm, » she said. « The impacts are long-lasting. »
The impetus of the provincially-funded project was to educate staff and faculty — anyone from professors to janitors —on post-secondary campuses on the best way to react and respond to those who come forward, and direct them to support on and off campus.
So far, about a dozen schools have signed on for the training, including Western, the University of Toronto, the University of Windsor and York University.
« We want people to be received appropriately and not be shut down, » said Joanie Pritchett, manager of the Centre for Sexual Violence Response Support and Education at York.
« It’s really about teaching emotional intelligence. »
Standalone sexual assault policies
The development of the training followed new legislation brought in by the Ontario Liberal government in 2016 that mandated all universities and colleges have a standalone sexual assault policy by January 2017 amid pressure from advocates and several high profile cases.
University of Ottawa hockey players were charged with sexually assaulting a girl during a trip to Thunder Bay in 2014. That same year, a Facebook group of dentistry students at Dalhousie University was discovered to include misogynistic statements about female classmates. In 2013, a video from Saint Mary’s University showed students chanting about non-consensual sex with underage girls.
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Statistics Canada data shows nearly half of all sexual assault happen to women aged 15 to 24. MacQuarrie hopes more schools will adopt the training to reduce the numbers.
« The idea it matters what somebody was wearing … whether they were drinking or whether they had done another kind of drug. We all operate under these myths that have permeated our thinking for so long. »
MacQuarrie’s team consulted with survivors, and an advisory committee from six universities and three colleges.
Original article can be found HERE.