Kelly Samuel / GAZETTE

Western is one of many Ontario post-secondary institutions inviting students to participate in a sexual violence survey.

On Feb. 27, Western University students received a personalized email invite to participate in a 20-minute survey on sexual violence. Ontario recently launched the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey to gather input from over 650,000 post-secondary students about their experiences, attitudes and beliefs relating to sexual violence.

The results will be used to address issues, improve services and raise awareness about sexual violence at Ontario post-secondary institutions.

“It’s everyone’s problem because it exists on campus,” said Gabi Christie, outreach commissioner at Western's Wellness Education Centre and fourth-year French and psychology student. “It's up to all of us as members of this community to be actively working to address our problem and to engage in conversations about sexual consent and boundaries and healthy relationships.”

Student Voices on Sexual Violence is the largest post-secondary survey ever conducted in Ontario. CCI Research, an independent firm, is conducting the survey on behalf of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development and post-secondary institutions in Ontario. All full-time college and university undergraduate students, graduate students and private career college students who are 18 years of age and older are eligible to participate in the study. Part-time undergraduate and part-time college students are excluded due to the size of the project.

The ministry plans to repeat the study once every three years to give institutions time to review the results and make changes accordingly.

“I think a big part of why it's important for each one of us to engage is because of the stigma that surrounds sexual assault,” added Christie.

The survey is one of several government initiatives that attempt to address sexual violence in post-secondary institutions. The ministry is also working to produce a set of Common Institutional Metrics; measurements that reflect formal complaints and reports of sexual violence made by students. The 2018 federal budget further earmarks up to $5.5 million over five years to address sexual violence at post-secondary institutions. According to the budget plan, Canadian universities and colleges who fail to adequately address reports of sexual assaults on campus will face federal funding cuts starting in 2019.

“This is an issue that I believe everyone should care about because it affects lives massively,” said Christie. “By taking this survey, you involve yourself in the conversation, and you show that you care.”

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey is available online for eligible students until March 26. Students who complete at least 65 per cent of the survey will receive a $5 electronic gift card from Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca or Starbucks. All responses submitted to the survey will remain confidential.

Results of the survey will be shared with institutions in summer 2018.

Students can access Western’s support services for sexual violence here.