By Sarah Larke
Humber College is putting an emphasis on sexual violence awareness and prevention across its campuses.
“It’s such an umbrella term that a lot of people aren’t able to define. There’s many different forms that fall under that umbrella term,” said Humber College Sexual Violence Education and Prevention coordinator Jennifer Flood.
The importance of colleges investing time and resources in sexual violence education is increasing. On Tuesday, the Ontario government released the results of its province-wide campus sexual violence survey, which showed 63 per cent of university students and nearly 50 per cent of college students have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment.
The survey, called the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey, had responses from 116,000 university students and 42,000 college students. Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton described the results as “disturbing.”
Flood said she hopes the survey results will help Humber move forward with its policies and programs. Humber introduced a research-based workshop from the University of New Hampshire in 2015 called Bringing in the Bystander, which discusses consent and intervention strategies.
“It teaches participants about bystander intervention, but more so it talks about sexual violence and how we intervene effectively to prevent sexual violence from happening,” Flood said.
The program has trained about 3,000 students and 300 faculty to date.
Apart from workshops, Humber College has Student Support and Intervention Coordinators at Lakeshore and North campus to meet with sexual violence survivors.
“Their role is to sit down with the survivor and map out all of the options. It’s really important to be survivor-driven,” said Lara Hof, Manager of Student Conduct.
Options include involving the police, a college investigation, or taking no action, and Hof said it’s about how the survivor wants to proceed. She is trained in trauma-informed investigation, which ensures victims aren’t further traumatized when she asks them questions about their experience.
“It’s a very unique kind of approach and skill and we’re very aware of that. No one wants to have to tell their story multiple times,” Hof said.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, only nine out of 78 Canadian universities had sexual assault policies as of November 2014. Now, all Ontario schools must have sexual assault policies and renew them every four years. After the sexual violence survey results came out, the provincial government announced all post-secondary institutions must give yearly reports on what schools are doing to support student survivors of sexual violence.
Hof said awareness is one of the most important steps on the road to sexual violence prevention.
“I think we need to change the culture of sexual violence in this country and we need to do that as an entire community that involves male-identified and female-identified individuals,” she said. “We need the men to have a voice as well and to be our allies. Sexual violence affects everybody so I hope we can have a conversation and keep the dialogue going.”