Under provincial legislation, universities are required to have a policy on sexual violence in place by January 2017. LOGO COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO STUDENTS' UNION

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held a consultation session last Monday on the university’s Draft Policy on Sexual Violence. The consultation session also marked the launch of U4Consent, UTSU’s anti-sexual violence campaign.

U of T’s Draft Policy on Sexual Violence has been created in response to provincial legislation requiring universities to have a substantive sexual violence policy by January 2017. After university-wide consultations — beginning in November 2014 — and a report outlining recommendations by an expert sexual violence panel, the draft policy was released September 7.

“The purpose of the U4Consent Campaign is to raise awareness about consent culture on campus, provide spaces for survivors to come together, and ensure that the administration is consulting students on the provincially mandated sexual violence policy,” UTSU President, Jasmine Wong Denike, told The Varsity by email.

Two survivors of sexual violence spoke with The Varsity after attending the U4Consent consultation.

Natasha* spoke on the event, highlighting that it was a safe space: “Unlike the recurring theme of ‘rape culture’ and other forms of oppression in other university setting, during this session survivors’ stories were valued and heard without interruption or opposition.”

Natasha also mentioned how people belonging to marginalized groups, even if they were not survivors, were encouraged by UTSU to share their experiences and opinions on the policy.

Another survivor, Taylor*, said that she appreciated that UTSU was taking on the campaign, and that Silence is Violence — a sexual violence support group — was involved in facilitating the event. Taylor added that she found it “slightly frustrating that this work has to be done by student groups rather than the (paid) university staff who were supposed to be consulting students.”

Denike said that “insufficiencies” in the extent of the university’s three one hour consultation sessions motivated the UTSU to hold the town hall. She added that the sexual violence policy will not be sufficient to make students feel comfortable coming forward with accusations.

An online forum has also been set up by U of T administration for students to give feedback on the draft policy until October 12.

*Name changed at individual’s request.

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