Sexual violence survey delay has delayed productive action

Photo: 
This editorial 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.
 
The province’s Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey had the potential to make a significant, timely impact on sexual violence at Ontario universities. Disappointingly, its implementation has hindered this potential.
 
The full results of the survey were released last Thursday, two years after it was conducted on campuses across the province.
 
The two-year period between the survey’s 2018 circulation and the release of its full results has reduced the positive impact on campuses this information could achieve. The data is now out of date, and it may no longer be accurate. 
 
The disturbing scope of sexual violence on campuses revealed by the survey results makes their delayed release all the more damaging to Ontario student life.
 
Withholding the full data for as long as the province did disservices current and future university students in Ontario, the survey’s respondents, and survivors of sexual violence. The delay has impacted how universities have addressed sexual violence on their campuses in the past two years. 
 
And, if the data is any indication, this is time universities couldn’t afford to lose in the first place.
 
At Queen’s, more than 7,000 students participated in the survey. The University was ranked second-highest in Ontario for rates of sexual harassment, and fourth for prevalence of sexual assault.
 
Although the data is now outdated, the implications of these findings can’t be understated. Queen’s has a serious sexual violence problem that must be addressed—though it’s unfortunate the University had to wait so long for the full data to clarify the problem’s scope.
 
Despite the survey’s poor execution, institutions still need to take a hard look at the information it gathered from their students. They should use the results to make meaningful changes on their campuses tackling sexual violence.
 
Last May, after the province released initial survey results, Queen’s received over $72,000 from the provincial government to address sexual violence on campus. However, the spending deadline for these funds is March 29, 2020, despite the province’s failure to release the full survey results until last week. 
 
Spending couldn’t have addressed the full scope of the survey’s results, because the University didn’t have access to them.
 
The results’ release should’ve been expedited and transparent. In failing to make them so, the province has failed to deliver real help to those who experience campus sexual violence. But institutions have the information now, and they’re still obligated to do as much as they can to better their cultures.
 
Schools must listen to students’ experiences with campus sexual violence and give them what they need to be safer and more comfortable—even if it’s overdue.
 
 

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.