Student leaders are coming together to tackle sexual violence at Queen’s.
The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (SVPR) Interfaculty Coalition will continue this year as a long-term committee meeting once a month to engage student leaders from faculty societies in addressing sexual violence.
The revived coalition is a product of collaboration between Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Amaiya Walters, AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Victoria Mills, and SVPR Coordinator Barb Lotan, who want the coalition to take a more active role on campus this year.
“It’s the responsibility of student leaders to do the work necessary in order to help build a consent culture on campus and amongst students,” Walters said in an interview with The Journal.
The SVPR coalition will connect faculty societies with resources and strategies to tackle sexual violence within their own communities. Although the coalition existed last year, those spearheading the project want to expand its presence on campus to include members from all faculty societies, including the Engineering Society (EngSoc) and the Residence Society (ResSoc).
Specifically, Walters would like to see programming and education around Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The “party culture” during those weekends can lead to more incidents of sexual violence, Walters explained.
“I don’t want our campus to only be a reactive place with incidents of sexual violence and gender-based violence, but be proactive and preventative by building consent culture,” Walters said.
Walters would like to educate students on common misconceptions around sexual violence and how rape culture is established on campus. The coalition wants to inform students of all forms of sexual violence in public, private, and party settings.
Inappropriate jokes or catcalling happen but aren’t always recognized by students as sexual violence. Walters warned when these incidents are normalized, it can normalize more harmful types of sexual violence such as assault.
The coalition won’t be alone in tackling sexual violence at Queen’s. The SVPR Task Force, co-chaired by Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney, has reviewed the policy on sexual violence involving students while the SVPR Services Office supports students who are survivors of sexual violence.
Last year, the office piloted mandatory online sexual violence training for first-year students in residence called It Takes All of Us.
“The University task forces don’t have majority student representation, and this coalition serves as a way to uplift the student voice,” Mills said in a statement to The Journal.
During President’s Caucus in July, Walters spoke to Mills about revitalizing the coalition this fall. The coalition met last year but was discussion based and didn’t hold any events. Mills and Walters both agree that peer-to-peer connections are key to engaging students in a meaningful way on the topic of sexual violence.
“I think one of the best ways to get through to students is through students themselves,” Walters said.
According to Mills, the prevalence of sexual violence on university campuses in Canada remains high. Last year, the Shift survey reported that almost 60 per cent of Queen’s students think sexual violence is a problem on campus, while 14 per cent of male-identifying students disagreed sexual violence is a problem at Queen’s.
Between May 1, 2021, and Apr. 30, 2022, the University reported 221 individuals contacted the SVPR Services Office, a 210 per cent increase from the previous year. One hundred eighty-seven of the individuals were students.
Mills hopes the coalition can be an avenue for collaboration within the student body. She’s excited to meet with the coalition for the first-time next week, aptly during Consent Awareness Week at Queen’s.
“I want this coalition to be able to empower one another and remain a support system for one another as we take on this work together,” Mills said.
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