Months after Premier Doug Ford repealed Ontario’s modernized 2015 sex education curriculum, which resulted in the removal of information on sexual consent from public education, a new report suggests sexual violence continues to be a persistent and ongoing problem in the province.
Completed by Silence is Violence (SiV), a campus advocacy group at the University of Toronto, the report not only highlights the stories of survivors but also makes several recommendations for U of T that focus on the needs of student survivors.
The project arose after SiV observed an absence of “meaningful survivor-centric and trauma-informed responses” to the extensive issue of sexual violence on U of T campuses.
Over three years, SiV’s research team — which consists of Jessica Wright, Simran Dhunna, Tamsyn Riddle, Paulysha De Gannes and Taylor Berzins — heard from over 500 students from all three of the university’s GTA campuses.
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The final report, which is titled End the Silence, End the Violence: Experiences and Understandings of Sexual Violence at the University of Toronto, outlines a number of key findings, including that as many as 20% of students who participated in the survey experience at least one instance of sexual violence during their time at U of T.
At the same time, 11% of students reported they were unsure if they had experienced sexual violence, demonstrating that more education about what constitutes sexual violence is needed.
Approximately 30% of participants stated they knew someone who had experienced sexual violence during their time at U of T. Moreover, 1 in 2 participants said their lives as students had been impacted by sexual violence.
Marginalized students experienced disproportionately higher rates of sexual violence, reaching as high as 71.4% for Indigenous respondents, and as high as 92.3% for students who are disabled, living with mental health issues, or Mad (Mental Health issues and Disabled).
When asked about their comfort level with reporting sexual violence, only 12.9% of survivors attempted to report their assault to some part of the university.
“Of the students that did report, they reported to a variety of places within the university, and like those who disclosed, many of those who reported sexual violence said they were sent to multiple places within the university, often including staff at their college, professors, and university administrators,” reads the report.
Additionally, some students were also discouraged from reporting, according to the report.
As for those who were able to report their assault, they rated their reporting experience as 5.2 out of 10 on average.
According to the report, those who reported their assault described the overall process as “time-consuming and leading to little substantive punishment or repercussions for the assailant.”
To ensure students affected by sexual violence receive the support they need, the report recommends the university should implement an “Anti-Sexual Violence and Survivor Support Hub” that is primarily meant as a first point of contact where survivors can feel safe and access need-based support.