Canadian Student Organizations Release Joint Publication on Campus Sexual Violence

Shared Perspectives evaluates how well universities across the country address instances of sexual assault on campus

(ABCS)

While sexual violence can occur to anyone in any place, students are particularly vulnerable to such behaviour while on campus. To address this problem, the B.C. government passed Bill 23, which requires all post-secondary institutions in the province to implement policies that prevent and respond to instances of sexual assault.

Colleges and universities had until April 2017 to put these policies in place. In the year since then, the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) has partnered with seven other student organizations across Canada to publish a research paper called Shared Perspectives which, in part, evaluates the effectiveness of those policies.

“The idea for this collaborative research paper came out of a joint meeting between the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and many provincial student advocacy organizations,” explains ABCS Chairperson Caitlin McCutchen, who also serves as the president of the Kwantlen Student Association. “Addressing sexual violence is a top priority for students across the country and we all decided to write a paper on how each of our provinces is addressing this issue.”

A common issue noted by the student organizations was the under-reporting of sexual assault cases, with only an estimated 33 of 1,000 incidents reaching law enforcement. This statistic in the paper is primarily attributed to victim-blaming, a lack of education on consent, and fears of reprisals or being ignored after reporting.

The authors of the report emphasize the need to create spaces where students feel comfortable disclosing details of sexual violence on campus. Additionally, many of the student organizations involved recommend that universities provide more inclusive prevention and response services for marginalized and underrepresented groups such as Indigenous and LGBTQ+ students.

In the portion of the publication written by the ABCS, McCutchen and her co-authors found that Bill 23 “lacks substantive defining principles,” which has led universities to implement “different programs, workshops, and resources … to actualize their policies.”

The alliance recommends that the province fund a comprehensive action plan which includes “guiding principles and procedures, with a focus on prevention work, education, and support services.” The intention of this is to make the development and implementation of sexual misconduct policies more uniform throughout the province.

In terms of changes specific to Kwantlen Polytechnic University, McCutchen “would love to see a dedicated staff person to help implement KPU’s sexualized violence and misconduct policy, disclosure training, and create consent and disclosure campaigns.”

“I know KPU says they’re working on this, but we as a community need to address on-campus sexual violence at a more prompt rate,” she adds.

According to an article in Maclean’s which surveyed over 23,000 undergraduate students from 81 Canadian schools, more than 20 per cent of female students, 46.7 per cent of LGBTQ+ students, and 6.9 per cent of male students have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Approximately half of those assaults occurred while they were attending university.

“Instances of sexual violence are still so high on university campuses because rape culture and misogyny are still so prevalent in our culture, as is a lack of understanding of consent and safe and healthy relationships,” says McCutchen.

With the ABCS, she plans “to lobby the government to help assist post-secondary institutions who are struggling to fully implement their sexual violence and misconduct policy.”

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