A recent Maclean's report shed light on campus sexual assault resources — and it's clear Canadian universities could be doing more.
Maclean's surveyed 23,000 students, asking undergraduates about how their university educated them about resources and procedures on sexual assault. In response to the question "Who educated you on how to report a sexual assault?" Western University students responded:
- 26 per cent reported no one
- 49 per cent reported university staff
- 27 per cent reported student union
- 25 per cent reported student group
- 11 per cent reported peers, and
- Nine per cent reported not sure
Compared to other Canadian universities, Western fared well. Several universities, such as the University of Prince Edward Island, had 47 per cent of students respond stating no one had educated them on how to report sexual assault. According to the survey, Western undergraduates get more exposure to this information than many other student bodies.
However, while education is key, there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to other issues surrounding campus sexual assault.
For one, Western needs to consolidate its resources. While support is available, many students have long expressed their confusion about where to go and who to talk to. With many resources in place, such as campus police, University Hospital and Student Health Services, it can be daunting and confusing to know which is the best resource.
To be fair, the university is aware of this problem, and it appears to be working to remedy it. The university introduced the Wellness Education Centre and a sexual violence prevention education coordinator in 2016. Both the centre and the coordinator are meant to act as touchpoints for students to access on and off campus resources. However, the centre and coordinator could be better promoted. It's unclear how many students are aware of the WEC's role as a one-stop shop for students seeking help.
The university could also be more transparent when it comes to its sexual violence reporting statistics. As presented in Western's sexual violence policy, students intending to file a report are currently directed to five different offices: Equity and Human Rights Services, the judicial affairs coordinator, Residence Life Office, the sexual violence prevention education coordinator and Campus Community Police Services. Western only releases reports from campus police and Equity and Human Rights Services, making it hard to know the extent of reported sexual violence incidents on campus.
One bright spot on the horizon is a survey initiative from the provincial government. Between February and March 2018, a survey will give post-secondary students in Ontario the opportunity to provide feedback on the topic of sexual violence on and around their campuses. The results will help us know what Western's doing well and where there's room to improve.
Let the data point the way.