Queen’s ranks fourth for disclosures of non-consensual sexual violence in Ontario

More than 5,000 Queen’s students report experiencing sexual harassment

Queen’s ranked second for sexual harassment.
Credit: 
Survey Summary Report
This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have experienced sexual assault. We acknowledge this term is not universal.
 
In a province-wide survey, 73,708 of 116,627 university students reported disclosing incidents of sexual harassment at their respective post-secondary institutions. 
 
More than 5,000 of those students were from Queen’s.
 
These numbers make up 71.4 per cent of Queen’s 7,016 respondents, earning the second highest percentage of Ontario universities behind Western at 71.6 per cent. 
 
“This is important data for us to have, and it’s data that’s quite sobering,” Sandy Welsh, leader of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) reference group on sexual violence, said in a media call Tuesday. 
 
Out of 20 universities and at 30.8 per cent, Queen’s had the fourth highest percentage of students who reported disclosures of non-consensual sexual violence. 
 
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities sent out the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey to post-secondary students in Ontario last winter. The results were promised to institutions in the fall of 2018, but, citing privacy concerns, the Ministry only released some of the data this past Tuesday. 
 
“There is certainly more data in the survey, and I know universities would be willing to work with and would appreciate whatever data the Ministry feels it can release,” Welsh said.
 
In a statement released on Mar. 19, the Ministry announced it would double its $3 million investment in the Women’s Campus Safety Grant “to assist colleges and universities in supporting the prevention of sexual violence.” 
 
The funds will be spread out among Ontario’s 45 post-secondary institutions. 
 
“We welcome that the province is recognizing the need to provide some additional supports for us in terms of the work we’ve been doing and the work the results clearly show that we need to continue to do,” Welsh said.
 
The Ministry also announced it will now require post-secondary institutions to review their sexual violence policies by this coming September, rather than the original deadline of Jan. 1, 2020. 
 
Schools are also required to develop task forces made up of “diverse student representatives” which will be “devoted to tackling sexual violence on campus.” 
 
The task forces will be required to report findings to both their institutions and the Ministry.
 
“Many universities have a variety of advisory committees and other committees that they have brought together since the time that we’ve been talking about our sexual violence policies, so I think this is an area that we are in agreement with the Minister,” Welsh said.
 
Principal Daniel Woolf released a statement on Tuesday announcing he’d commissioned Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney to transition the Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Working Group (SVPRWG)—of which she’s a member—into a taskforce. Tierney’s also a member of the COU reference group on sexual violence.
 
“The group has an extensive diverse membership that includes several undergraduate and graduate student government and student group representatives, as well as staff, faculty and community organizations,” Tierney wrote in an email to The Journal. “Part of the task force’s work will be reviewing the survey summary results.”
 
She added the SVPRWG will take on the responsibilities outlined by the Minister in addition to its current work. She wrote the transition can “take effect right away.”  
 
Tierney also called the high percentages of Queen’s students who reported sexual harassment and non consensual sexual violence “concerning.”
 
“Clearly more work needs to be done,” she wrote. “The findings are concerning in terms of awareness of our supports, services and reporting procedures, and the incidences of experiences of sexual violence.”
 
She added the summary compiles “several different kinds of situations” and “it will be helpful to get a more detailed breakdown of the data.” 
 
“We will want to bring in our peer bystander intervention team to help us interpret the data relating to bystander behaviours,” she wrote. 
 
Out of 580,472 university student respondents, 59.7 per cent reported having no knowledge of available sexual violence supports, services, and reporting procedures at their schools. 
 
At 57.9 per cent, 20,217 of those students were from Queen’s. 
 
Tierney also called this piece of data concerning.
 
“The summary data suggests that some students aren’t aware of what’s available, so again, when we get more detailed data, we’ll be able to respond in the most meaningful ways for our students,” Tierney wrote.
 
She added more data will allow the working group to find out which support services students need more  information about. 
 
“We will look to the students on the task force to help us figure out how to raise awareness,” she wrote. 
 
Queen’s Board of Trustees received its first sexual violence report this month, which revealed from 2017-18, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office received only 82 students seeking help and filed 31 formal complaints of sexual violence. 
 
There is no data available for 2016-17 because the Human Rights Office has not yet published an annual report for that year. 
 
These numbers support the survey’s findings that thousands of Queen’s students aren’t aware of the supports available to them and don’t know how to file reports of sexual violence.  
 
Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator Barb Lotan is the person survivors at Queen’s can discuss their experiences with and choose whether to make a disclosure. 
 
“Barb is, of course, fully involved in all work related to addressing sexual violence on campus. Since her arrival, her position has proven critically important,” Tierney wrote. “I am sure she could answer any questions you have.”
 
The Journal was redirected to Ann Tierney after reaching out to Barb Lotan for an interview about the survey’s results. 
 
Despite the thousands of students who report a lack of knowledge about available support and how to report sexual violence, 61.6 per cent of 1,788 Queen’s respondents reported feeling satisfied with their institution’s response to sexual violence. 
 
“Our campus is strongly committed to continuing to address sexual violence,” Tierney said.
 
In Tuesday’s media call, COU’s Welsh suggested improvement measures such as “providing training to residence dons” and other campus support staff. She also pointed to survivor support.
 
“We understand the importance of providing counseling to victims of sexual violence on campus,” she said.
 
The Journal asked if some portion of the doubled Women’s Safety Grant would be used to increase counselling services available for survivors of sexual violence.
 
Welsh said it would be up to the institutions. 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.