Administration finally settles on an approved, updated policy for sexual violence and assault on campus

This month, the University of Toronto implemented a new sexual violence policy. The policy comes as a result of a broader attempt to improve support for victims of sexual violence across all three University of Toronto campuses.

The Ontario Provincial Government recently implemented Bill 132, which requires a specific sexual violence policy in place at all universities by January 1st, 2017. In response to this, the University of Toronto began an extensive, 18-month process to develop their final “Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.” The policy was developed through focus groups including students and faculty, intermittent release of policy drafts and feedback from the broader University of Toronto community, and external research and support from experts in the field.

The previous policy is from 1997. The clear changes in the understanding of and responses to sexual violence within the past 20 years make a new policy particularly relevant, especially in light of technological developments utilized against victims (i.e. internet stalking, leaking private photos, and hidden cameras).

A highlight in the new policy includes the use of a centralized system, for both consistency in immediate response to sexual violence, and in the way the university will give support to victims. Another measure in the centralization of sexual violence response, is the opening of a Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre on campus. This center will focus on both education on, and the prevention of sexual violence at the University of Toronto, as well as a tangible location for response to incidences of Sexual Violence.

Along with the new center, the University of Toronto has also created more roles within leadership that focus on sexual violence support and prevention. On October 11th, Terry McQuaid was appointed as the executive director of personal safety, high risk, and sexual violence prevention and support. The intention is for this role to head community safety initiatives, among other things. Another new role is director for the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre.

University President, Meric Gertler remarked: “It is important that our campuses are a place where individuals feel safe.” The new policies have been met with vast support from university faculty, staff, and students.

Within the Vic community, the Office of the Dean of Students’ “Ask, Listen, Talk” campaign addresses the need to have more communication on sexual violence. Their website includes a plethora of resources for students on sexual education, consent, and prevention. A Victoria College student that requested to remain anonymous remarked that “I feel comfortable discussing sexual violence, but as a person not affected directly, don’t want to speak for others.”

Contrastingly, another Victoria College student said that “with recent events, particularly Vikileaks, I don’t feel comfortable identifying Victoria College as a safe space to talk about these issues.” All parties are hopeful that with the developed policies and funding for sexual assault prevention and education, these conversations will become more prevalent.