Barb Lotan speaks to sexual violence response efforts this past year

Queen’s has introduced a new prevention framework, expanded the bystander intervention program and curated a new website

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Journal file photo

For Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator Barb Lotan, the past school year has shown a strong commitment from the University towards better addressing sexual violence on campus.

“I think we had a pretty good year,” Lotan commented. She spoke with The Journal to discuss the efforts of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Working Group this past year.

One of this year’s most notable positive changes has been the expansion of the Sexual Violence Bystander Intervention Training Program.

“The Bystander Intervention Team continues to do really great work … there’s been really positive response to those information sharing sessions,” Lotan said.

Moreover, the working group provided support for the implementation of the newly instated Sexual Violence Awareness Week that occurred in November of 2017. This was spearheaded by Social Issues Commissioner Ramna Safeer, who also sits on the working group.

This year also saw Kim Graham, from the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, take on a membership role on the working group, something Lotan believes has formally augmented and strengthened community partnerships in the area of sexual violence prevention.

A new website dedicated to providing support and resources for survivors was also released last semester, which was a major goal for Lotan this year.

Lotan said the working group has also been inviting student groups, such as AMS-sanctioned clubs, to provide valuable insight and guidance into what students on campus believe needs to be done about sexual violence prevention.

A significant addition to augment the efforts of the University is an official framework document that was released in September by Student Affairs. It outlines broad goals for the school and pinpoints five primary strategic areas. These include education and awareness, skill building, culture of support, policy and procedures, as well as community.

The school’s sexual violence policy, which was released in December 2016, won’t receive any official updates this year. Since it’s been just over a year since its release, Lotan said more time is needed to evaluate its conduciveness. However, the provincial government mandates the policy be updated every three years, so talks about improvements to the policy have begun.

In the meantime, Lotan, who is part of a network of people in Ontario who engage in similar work, said there are discussions being held about implementing a province-wide Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which would occur in January. Sexual Violence Awareness Month is in May; typically a time where most students are away from their university campus for the summer. 

Lotan said the introduction of this week would hopefully facilitate united efforts by postsecondary institutions across the board and better ensure awareness of the problem of sexual violence.

Overall, Lotan believes Queen’s is on the right track in terms of prevention and response.

“There’s always something that we can be doing better or doing differently … there are always challenges with providing [support] for sexual violence [survivors],” she said. “But I think Queen’s is doing fairly well. There’s some room for improvement for sure, but there’s a true commitment to getting that done [at Queen’s].”

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