Sexual assault policy consultation moving forward

Working group has completed series of four open meetings

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group (SAPRWG) finished up a series of four open consultations regarding a permanent sexual assault policy this week.

The SAPRWG has been working since its inception in 2013 to provide victims of sexual assault with a safe environment to discuss their traumatic experience and to gather and share information on campus sexual assaults.

The working group released an interim protocol in January, intended to communicate the group’s current position on sexual assault and support services. The interim protocol provides the University’s current position in respect to sexual assault, as well as listing available support services and educational approaches to sexual assault.

A permanent policy is expected to be released by April 30.

The open meetings each lasted an hour, during which people were asked to comment specifically on four areas: general policy and procedures, support and response, prevention efforts and environment.

Arig al Shaibah, assistant dean of student affairs and chair of the working group, said they worked to make the open meetings a safe environment for survivors by establishing ground rules for “respectful dialogue, a non-judgmental airing of opinions, people speaking about their own experiences rather than sharing other people’s stories and requesting confidentiality at those meetings”.

The meetings, which were closed to the media, were moderated by Dr. Leslie Flynn.

al Shaibah said the SAPRWG always looks for input from and the involvement of survivors when dealing with prevention and response.

“Engaging our community, we hope, will result in the kinds of interventions [that] will be survivor-centric, when everyone can engage in the process,” she said.

al Shaibah said she was pleased with the turnout at the open meetings.

“When you look at the whole consultative process in its entirety, I think that there is a great amount of engagement across the community.”

The general goals of the working group during the consultation period, she said, are offering a safe environment to discuss issues and initiatives pertaining to sexual assault, furthering their understanding of campus context both locally and nationally, improving the sharing of information between campuses and enhancing policies and developing campus-wide initiatives to support prevention and response.

The purpose of the open meetings was “to actually engage the community with the interim protocol and to give us feedback on it that would inform future and more comprehensive and permanent policies and procedures”, al Shaibah added.

Due to the sensitive and private nature of the information, she said, the working group selected three main approaches to information-gathering: an anonymous and confidential survey, a series of open meetings and confidential one-on-one interviews and focus groups.

The working group plans to meet with “specific stakeholders” and focus groups starting next week, including the Gender Studies department, the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre, students from the Peer Support Centre and volunteers at the Sexual Health Resource Centre.

“We wanted to cast a net wide enough in terms of consulting with our broad community and we thought it was important to offer several ways that individuals might want to engage and provide us with feedback,” al Shaibah said.

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