The following statement was released by the University Students’ Council executive on Thursday, February 27th:
Content warning: this article contains upsetting subject matter regarding sexual violence, including rates of sexual assault among Western students.
Earlier today, the Council of Ontario Universities released additional disaggregated data from the results of the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey. The release provides a more comprehensive dataset of responses broken down by specific survey question and by institution, which offers greater clarity into the responses of over 8,000 Western students who participated in the study.
While our team only received the data this morning and it will take us time to fully analyze and understand the dataset, we are heartbroken to see the prevalence and persistence of gender-based violence in our campus community.
To survivors of gender-based violence, we believe you and we stand with you. We want you to know that we hear you and that advocacy about gender-based violence prevention and support is a top priority for the USC.
The data released today depicts a serious cultural problem in our campus community. It’s important to call this what it is: rape culture on university campuses, including at Western. In fact, the data consistently demonstrates that Western has a disproportionate problem with gender-based violence in comparison to many of our peer institutions, as we have among the worst record of any Ontario university in many of the survey’s categories. Irrespective of the comparative data, in no world is it acceptable that 32.4% of our students experience sexual assault during their time as a student. It is important that the university acknowledges this fact and admits unequivocally that we have a real problem with sexual violence at Western.
As an entire community, we need to do better. The federal and provincial governments need to dedicate more research and funding to gender-based violence prevention and response. Municipalities need to prioritize strategies that improve safety off campus, particularly where students consume alcohol. Institutions need to improve prevention and education programming while enhancing survivor-centric support for students who choose to disclose and report instances of gender-based violence to their offices.
At the same time, our organization and our students need to take responsibility for being complicit in allowing a culture of sexual violence to exist and persist in our academic and social communities. We know that rape culture thrives in the presence of power, entitlement, and privilege. Our students must also be leaders in ending our tolerance for all forms of gender-based violence on our campus.
It is important to recognize that a lot of good work on addressing gender-based violence has happened at Western since the survey was conducted in 2018. Western is moving in the right direction; we are happy to see the implementation of a number of initiatives the USC has advocated for, including the development of a new policy on gender-based and sexual violence, introduction of the Flip the Script program, and creation of two full-time staff roles responsible for gender-based violence prevention and survivor support. However, this data shows that, based on where we started two years ago, we have a tremendous amount of effort still ahead of us. This information only affirms the need for a well resourced, centralized, and coordinated office to address gender-based violence at Western.
It is up to all of us to eliminate gender-based violence in our community. But before we can come to a solution, we have to acknowledge there is a problem – and that takes courageous leadership. Today is just a small step in a long journey ahead.
Students who are impacted by this topic for any reason are encouraged to access any of the below resources:
- Western gender-based violence and survivor support case manager: call 519-661-3568 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- CMHA Crisis Centre: visit 648 Huron Street in London or call 519-433-2023 for the 24 hour Reach Out line
- Anova: call 519-642-3000 for the 24 hour crisis and support line
- Good2Talk: visit the Good2Talk website or call 866-925-5454 for the 24 hour support line
- For a full list of resources, see Western’s website on sexual violence
In 2018, the provincial government conducted the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey to poll post-secondary students on the prevalence of gender-based violence on Ontario college and university campuses. The purpose of the study was to “provide information about how students perceive, understand, and respond to sexual violence, as well as how institutions address sexual violence.” Across Ontario, approximately 25% of university students participated in the survey, with over 8,000 responses from Western students.
Last Spring, the provincial government released a Summary Report of the findings, which showed 71.6% of Western students experienced sexual harassment and 32.4% reported a non-consensual sexual experience. At the time, the USC called for improved proactive programming and more survivor-centric support for students who disclose experiences of gender-based violence.
At 10:00 a.m. this morning, the Council of Ontario Universities released additional disaggregated data to supplement the initial release of data last March. This statement serves as the USC’s response to the new data and the persisting problem of gender-based violence on Western’s campus.