Policy tackles sexualized violence through education, support

Credit: UVic Photo Services

The new sexualized violence policy at the University of Victoria is being implemented with a central resource office, widespread education and a shared commitment to make the campus free from all forms of sexualized violence.

The university approved the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy and its related procedures this spring after more than a year of extensive consultations, research and deliberations. 

“The university is working hard to realize the expectations set out in the policy,” 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.”

Cassels initiated the review in April 2016 for the university to address sexualized violence more directly and effectively. A committee of 21 diverse community members, including staff, faculty, students and survivors of sexualized violence helped develop the policy. The BC government requires all post-secondary institutions to have a policy on sexualized violence for students. UVic’s policy also applies to other members of the campus community such as faculty and staff as well as volunteers and others with a direct connection to UVic.

The policy covers education and prevention, support and resources, and fair and consistent responses to incidents of sexualized violence.

Under the policy the university is committed to:

  • Implement and actively promote education, awareness, prevention and training programs, in multiple formats and tailored to multiple audiences, that support survivors and those impacted by sexualized violence in a trauma-informed manner;
  • Communicate the support services and resources available to all members of the university community who may be directly or indirectly impacted by sexualized violence;
  • Support survivors and those impacted by sexualized violence, through academic, non-academic and other supports as required; and
  • Co-ordinate consistent, fair and transparent responses to sexualized violence disclosures and reports.

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 Co-ordinator is collaborating with key university units across campus 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, the education and prevention coordinator. “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.

A PDF of the policy is available with related procedures as well as background on how the policy was developed.

More information about events being held for Sexual Violence Awareness Week can be found on the Student Life website.

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Media contacts

Cassbreea Dewis (Acting Director Equity and Human Rights) at 250-721-7007 or eqhrdir@uvic.ca

Leah Shumka (Sexualized Violence Co-ordinator) at 250-721-8218 or svpcoordinator@uvic.ca

Denise Helm (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-7656 or dhelm@uvic.ca

In this story

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

People: Cassbreea Dewis, Leah Shumka

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