“Alarming & heartbreaking”: Queen’s grapples with sexual violence survey results

University, AMS respond to results of provincial survey

AMS, University respond to data from sexual violence survey.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

One week after the additional results from the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey results were released, and two years after the initial survey was sent to Ontario college and university students, Queen’s is engaging with the data provided by the survey.

The survey found that Queen’s ranked fourth in the province for the prevalence of sexual assault, and second for rates of sexual harassment. More than 7,000 Queen’s students participated in the survey.

Both the University administration and the AMS have been reviewing the results since their release.

“This data is imperative in demonstrating the magnitude of the problem that we face in our community,” William Greene, AMS vice-president (University Affairs), wrote in a statement to The Journal addressing the results.

“Our numbers are both alarming and heartbreaking,” Greene wrote. “We need to undoubtedly acknowledge that sexual violence is a significant problem in our community.”

Greene said the AMS hopes to incorporate survey data into an Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) policy paper he is co-authoring focused on sexual violence.

The policy seeks to expand on OUSA’s push for a Women’s Campus Safety grant, which was doubled for this academic year in response to initial data released from the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey. Greene’s proposal, co-authored with student politicians from McMaster University, Trent University and the University of Western Ontario, would make this increase permanent.

“Funding is a necessary piece in both our prevention and response efforts,” Greene said.

He added the results will be considered by the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Task Force, which is currently reviewing the University’s sexual violence policy, which faced controversy in the fall.

“The Task Force will be discussing the results in upcoming meetings and will work to identify areas in which we can begin to draw conclusions with the aim of implementing new programs and campaigns,” Greene said. “These survey results further emphasize that we need to focus on creating policies and procedures that place survivors at the forefront.”

As for the Society’s future plans, Greene said the AMS plans to advocate that the provincial government continue to conduct surveys on sexual violence, and that his successor will use the data to develop a long-term advocacy strategy.

“[The survey results] provide valuable insights into students’ experiences and perceptions of sexual violence, peer norms, and awareness of sexual violence support services,” Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of Student Affairs, and Stephanie Simpson, associate vice-principal (Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion), wrote in an email to The Journal.

Tierney and Simpson co-chair Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Task Force.

“The information will help focus our efforts where more work is needed,” they wrote. “We will continue to work with students to enhance our education activities and identify methods to positively influence attitudes and peer norms on consent and healthy relationships, and look to increase awareness of supports for survivors of sexual violence.”

Tierney and Simpson indicated one result that stood out to them was that “not thinking it was serious enough” was the most commonly cited reason for not telling university staff of an incident of sexual violence, at 50.7 per cent.

“All incidences of sexual violence are serious,” they said.

According to Tierney and Simpson, the survey results indicated more work needs to be done surrounding sexual violence prevention at Queen’s. They highlighted that a new Sexual Violence Community Outreach and Student Support Worker was recently added to the Human Rights and Equity Office. “The new staff person will develop and deliver additional educational programming aimed at creating a consent culture on campus,” they said.

Tierney and Simpson also said a priority for the Task Force, based on the survey results, is making sure information and support resources are accessible to students, and looking at education and prevention tailored to women, gender diverse, and bisexual students, who experience sexual violence at higher-rates.

The two said Queen’s is supporting and working with other Ontario universities to develop a regular climate survey on sexual violence, within the framework of the Council of Ontario Universities.

“The top priority for Queen’s is providing a safe and supportive environment for our students and support for those that have experienced sexual violence,” Tierney and Simpson said.

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