Promising Practices

The following promising practices were determined through interviews with Sexual Violence offices in universities and colleges across Ontario. They represent programs, partnerships, and practices that are innovative and that show promise for supporting survivors on campus, despite not having been formally evaluated.

Fanshawe College
Soft Interview Room

Seven years ago, at Fanshawe College, students would have to walk to an interview room in the campus security office if they wanted to file an official report of sexual violence. This interview room was typically reserved for perpetrators of crimes on campus, and the atmosphere in the room reflected this fact. This problem inspired the Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor to partner with campus security to establish a soft interview room within the Counselling and Accessibility Services office, where students having experienced any form of gender-based violence could feel more comfortable and have more control over making their formal report. The aesthetic of the room is calming and all items that were included were chosen with this in mind. This room features comfortable chairs, fidget toys to help survivors to regulate themselves, and books. The room is located next to the Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor’s office so that the survivor does not need to leave the department to make a formal report. The room also features video and audio recording equipment, as well as a desk for a laptop, in order to accommodate the needs of campus security or police in making the report. In an effort to make their services as trauma-informed as possible, the Counselling department allows students making a report to have a support person present during the interview, as well as offering their own accompaniment in order to advocate for the student, for example, asking for the interview to be paused if the student needs a break. Their aim in developing this space was to put as much agency in the hands of survivors as possible. Moving forward, the Counselling department intends to have an emotional support animal available for these interviews as well.

For more information:
Leah Marshall

University of Windsor
Survivorship Zone

In 2016, University of Windsor nursing placement student Shelby Lacey ran a #MeToo-themed community event at the local café which featured an open mic, support staff to care for anyone feeling emotionally overwhelmed, and art stations with craft supplies set up for survivors to express themselves. The intent of the art stations was to have students be empowered and encouraged to create art as a form of healing, to be collated into a zine which would then be published by the university. A zine is a short self-published work of text and images, typically photocopied into physical prints for circulation. At this initial event survivors were provided with prompting questions on slips of paper, such as “what does survivorship mean to you?” and were provided the freedom to respond to these questions using whatever form of art that resonated with them. Other than providing a healing outlet, the final zine was also helpful in creating a sense of community for survivors and letting them know that they are not alone.

Since that time, the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention, Resistance, and Support at the University of Windsor has hosted 3 similar zine-making events, open to survivors and their supporters, with the aim of publishing new editions of the Survivorship Zine. Most recently, the office requested virtual submissions of art and writing, which allowed them to receive a wider variety of submissions for

the zine. At these events, participants were also instructed on how to make their own zines for self- publication, providing survivors with the agency to use this medium for themselves. The organizers recommend for offices wishing to undertake their own zine-making events, to study the history of zines in order to have a strong grasp on the context of this medium and how it has been used in the past.

For more information:
The Office of Sexual Violence Prevention, Resistance, and Support, UWindsor

Brock University
Red Umbrella Campaign

Brock University’s Red Umbrella Campaign began after a student came forward one day at health services and disclosed their engagement in sex work. This prompted the manager of student wellness services to question how prepared the university was to respond to and support student sex workers, and lead to the university reaching out to the YWCA in Niagara, who are leaders in the fields of sex trafficking and sex work. The aim of partnering with the YWCA was to ensure that this conversation at the university about sex work was in alignment with leading practice. The partnership was supported CICMH’s Campus-Community Partnership Project. They then worked with internal partners and the YWCA to hire a student research assistant, who also engaged in sex work, to help develop a needs assessment for sex workers on campus.

The needs assessment determined that student sex workers wanted a discrete active invitation to connect with wellness services, in order to feel welcome on campus. At this point, the university launched a social media campaign based on the symbol of the red umbrella, which is recognized as indicating a safe space for sex workers where their diverse needs will be recognized. Attached to the launch of this campaign was a front-of-line service for sex workers which could be accessed by clicking the red umbrella symbol on the counselling services webpage. The service would then immediately connect student sex workers with an outreach counsellor who is skilled in trauma- informed approaches to counselling. This outreach counsellor would meet with the student to understand what services and supports they are looking for and could then provide a warm handover to counselling or nursing services, depending on the student’s needs. While the student wellness department has implemented all of the services that emerged from the needs assessment that are within their control, their next steps include addressing the broader campus culture and changing general student perceptions about sex work.

For more information:
Sarah Pennisi

University of Waterloo
Partnership with Community Justice Initiatives

In their last policy review period in 2019, the office of Sexual Violence Prevention & Response at the University of Waterloo included a section on restorative justice in their Sexual Violence Response Protocol and Procedures, among other examples of alternative dispute resolution approaches. The director of Sexual Violence Prevention & Response then reached out to a local community organization known as Community Justice Initiatives (CJI), which has a long history of working in restorative justice, and asked them what they thought restorative justice could look like in a campus context. That conversation lead to the idea of socializing the idea of restorative justice within the campus community, in order to generate buy-in from students, staff, and faculty around the use of restorative justice, particularly in the context of sexual violence response.

In 2020, the office began co-hosting virtual listening and learning sessions with CJI. The purpose of these sessions was to have various members of the campus community come and learn what restorative justice means, as well as to pose particular questions themed around restorative justice in a circle format. The office held three of these sessions in total, two specifically for employees of the university, and another specifically for students. These sessions supported CJI to develop a scaffolded learning opportunity based on what they learned from the campus community, which is still to be implemented. Alongside this, CJI also adapted one of their group-formatted workshops to become a 7-module individual course, to support those who have been found to have caused harm through policy to learn about the impact of their actions and to take responsibility for the harm they caused, through one on one meetings with a member of the CJI team. This course is offered to decision-makers on campus in the event of a breach of the policy, though it has yet to be accessed by a student. The office is still in the process of socializing the idea of restorative justice on campus, and moving forward they hope to offer some ongoing learning for leadership, as well as for student-facing roles where it might make sense for restorative justice practices to be implemented.

For more information:
Amanda Cook

Toronto Metropolitan University
Peer Support Line

While Toronto Metropolitan University offers professional support to survivors through their sexual violence support and education team, the university also offers additional peer support to survivors from the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support, a branch of the Toronto Metropolitan University Student Union. The main service offered by the centre is the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line, also known as SASSL, which includes a text line that is open from 10 AM to midnight, as well as a phone line that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These lines are hosted online through a program similar to Zoom which does not track IP addresses, to ensure that there is no record of the call for the safety of the survivor. The centre has also recently made a WhatsApp number available to text, specifically so that international student survivors can access the line without having to pay any additional fees.

The centre is run by a single employee, who then recruits and trains university students and community members in peer support to be able to staff the lines. The training, which runs for 10 hours over three days, includes sessions on how to properly use the online program, understanding intersectionality within sexual violence, how to support someone in a crisis, the importance of believing and validation in a peer support context, and self-care. During the training, all trainees also have the opportunity to engage in a practice call, to prepare for the reality of the service. Volunteers staff the line in teams of two in order to support each other with particularly difficult calls, and volunteers also have access to a number of resources to support with any vicarious trauma they may experience, including a Google form they can complete after a tough call that leaves space for them to request a meeting if they would like one. The centre has also begun a collaboration with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre such that any TMU student can access their support, and the peer support workers are also welcome to reach out to them if they would like support from outside the centre.

For more information:
Sam DeFranco

University of Toronto
Survivor Support Group

In 2021, the University of Toronto’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre piloted a virtual drop-in support group entitled Healing Hearts, for survivors of all genders. While the drop-in was not intended to be a therapy group, it was designed to provide a safe space for survivors to feel a sense of community care and belief on campus, learn sexual violence education and prevention topics, and engage in and learn about wellness and self-care activities. Each session, which took place monthly, included an educational component, for example, a discussion about consent and pleasure, as well as a wellness component, for example, a heart origami activity. The Centre sent out wellness packages to those participants who were comfortable providing their addresses, which included items such as paint, pencil crayons, origami sheets, blank cardstock, face masks, candy, chocolate, and tea. Some of the sessions also included guest speakers, including one guest who discussed intimacy after trauma, and another guest that discussed accountability and transformative justice. The organizers aligned the topics of each session to fit within the patterns of the semester, focusing for example on self-compassion and self-care during exam season.

The Centre developed this group with trauma-informed principles in mind, and facilitated through that lens as well, providing participants with choices throughout the process, such as whether or not to share their real name or have their camera on. The first fifteen minutes of each session were dedicated to introductions, discussing group guidelines and the boundaries of confidentiality, and establishing what participants could expect from the session that day. Looking toward the future, the organizers hope to open this initiative beyond students to include staff and faculty as well. They further intend to create similar groups for queer students as well as for racialized students. Additionally, the Centre hopes to offer a hybrid model of this group where survivors have the option to join in person or online.

For more information:
Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre, University of Toronto

Durham Rape Crisis Centre
Partnership with Trent University and Durham College

The Durham Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) is a feminist organization that has been taking an active role in its community to end all forms of violence against women and children. Since 2020, the Durham Rape Crisis Centre has been working in partnership with both Trent University-Durham and Durham College to support students who have experienced sexual violence. This partnership has been supported CICMH’s Campus-Community Partnership Project. Services provided by DRCC include direct sexual violence support for survivors, programming around consent education, bystander intervention training, as well as training on supporting survivors of sexual violence, provided during new student orientation and throughout the year to students, student leaders, staff, and faculty. One of the major benefits of this partnership is that it allows students from both institutions to skip the long waitlist at DRCC and receive support immediately for their needs.

Aside from their regular programming with Trent University and Durham College, DRCC has recently purchased the rights to be able to facilitate the Man|Made program, a five-week psychoeducational group for men at postsecondary institutions, which focuses on peer modeling around healthy masculinity and sexuality. This program is geared towards men who have committed sexual violence, though DRCC has opened it up to any men in the Durham College and Ontario Tech University communities who might be interested in attending to learn how to be a better ally. In addition to this, DRCC is in the process of developing with Durham College a Sexual Violence First Aid program, which is similar in format to Mental Health First Aid training by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The program is currently in its initial stages and is being piloted through Durham College as an online module, with the hopes of eventually opening it up to the wider community. So far over 300 students have completed the final quiz, and over 150 have completed the final feedback survey.

For more information:
Isabella Giuga

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