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Policy tackles sexualized violence through education, support

The university is in the early stages of implementing UVic’s new sexualized violence policy with creation of a central resource office, hiring of a coordinator of education and response and production of user-friendly materials to support the policy’s goals and objectives.

“The university is working hard to realize the expectations set out in the policy to make our campus free from all forms of sexualized violence,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels.

 “We want every member of our community to be informed about the policy and the values it upholds and to consider what each of us can do to contribute to an environment where consent and respect are fundamental principles and practices at UVic.”

The Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy and related procedures were approved in the Spring and took effect May 17, 2017. It covers education and prevention, support and resources, and fair and consistent responses to incidents of sexualized violence. A committee of 21 diverse campus members developed the policy after a year of extensive consultations, research and deliberations. It applies to all members of the campus community as well as visitors.

The policy is being implemented through Equity and Human Rights which recently has reorganized its structure and redefined staff roles and responsibilities. As a part of that restructuring a sexualized violence resource office has been created where all members of the university community can seek advice, access supports and/or disclose or make a report of a sexualized violence incident.

A newly hired Sexualized Violence Education and Prevention Coordinator is collaborating with key university units to coordinate education, prevention and response. Early initiatives include producing an easily understood overview of the policy and a primer on what to do if someone discloses to you about an incident of sexualized violence.

“We are working on a comprehensive university wide education and training strategy that will in turn be tailored to the needs of different groups on campus,” says Leah Shumka, who started in the coordinator position in late June.

 “As an initial piece, we are providing people with information about how to receive a disclosure, which is the process when someone tells someone else about an incidence of sexualized violence, very often as a means of accessing support. We want all campus community members to respond to a disclosure in a way that prioritizes their safety and dignity and provides them with options and choices in terms of support and how to proceed.”

The policy and its implementation plan is the latest step taken by UVic to address sexualized violence. The education and training builds on existing programs such as bystander training, the annual Sexual Violence Awareness Week (a collaboration between Student Affairs, the UVic Students Society and the Anti-Violence Project, among others) and recently completed trauma-informed training for units on campus most likely to have initial contact with people who have experienced sexualized violence. UVic has also introduced specific professional staff positions in Student Affairs that provide students impacted by sexualized violence with highly trained, dedicated supports.

For more information on the policy and its implementation contact EQHR through their website or at 250-721-8488.

Sexualized Violence Awareness Week

Sexualized Violence Awareness Week, Sept. 18-22, includes a host of activities to raise awareness about preventing the pervasive social problem of sexualized violence.

“University campuses have a role to play to prevent and reduce incidents of sexualized violence in society,” says Rebekah Erickson, student leadership and engagement coordinator with UVic’s Office of Student Life. “Sexualized Violence Awareness Week helps raise awareness and provides opportunities for UVic’s community to learn about the supports and programs that are available on campus and in the community.”

The collaboration with the UVSS and AVP brings a multi-faceted approach. The student groups have been strong advocates for change.

“The UVSS is excited to be working on the week’s activities and throughout the year to help change attitudes and behaviors on campus and to challenge systemic violence. The Let’s Get Consensual campaign and advocacy work has been successful in emphasizing the need for a policy on sexualized violence and provincial legislation,” says Anmol Swaich, UVSS director of campaigns and community relations. “Student unions across BC have been signing on to the Let’s Get Consensual Campaign and are hosting similar events.”

Meg Neufeld, AVP’s education coordinator, said it’s important that people who have experienced sexualized violence know that there are options and resources available to them. Meanwhile, work is ongoing to provide support, to reduce stigma, and to challenge the myths around sexualized violence.  AVP leads the consent workshops as well as programs such as the Men’s Circle to challenge gender-based violence.

“We all need to think about how and why sexualized violence happens and how it’s connected to other systems of oppression,” says Neufeld.


In this story

Keywords: sexualized violence, harassment, policy, student life, community, administrative

People: Cassbreea Dewis, Leah Shumka

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