The SVPSC offices. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

The U of T Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre (SVPSC) released a progress report in May detailing the Centre’s tri-campus changes and objectives across a two-year period, from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

In the report, the Centre noted that it received 506 requests for support from faculty, staff, and students. Fifty-six reports were filed under the university’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.

The Centre also participated in 64 outreach activities at campus events and delivered 190 workshops to 7,920 U of T community members, amassing a total of 300 hours of training through the workshops. In addition, 4,156 students, staff, and faculty members had engaged with the new online sexual violence prevention training module posted on Quercus in 2018.

A relatively new institution at U of T, the Centre was established in 2017.

“Really, [we’re] looking at ways we can break down some of the stigma around reaching out for help around sexual violence,” said Angela Treglia, the Director of the SVPSC.

According to the report, among the core objectives of the Centre is providing a safe space where people can receive non-judgmental care and support, while also learning about the resources and options available to them, whether or not that includes filing a formal report.

The Centre has had some difficulty trying to reach more people. According to the results of an Ontario-wide survey on sexual violence at postsecondary institutions, U of T respondents noted that only 20.1 per cent felt strongly that they knew where to go for resources and support. In contrast, 58.7 per cent disclosed that they experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment since the beginning of the academic year.

Treglia said that the Centre’s future objectives include building the education effort through workshops and also increasing community engagement. She believes that as the Centre’s visibility grows, more people will use its services.

“We want people to know that when they come to us, they get to decide what level of detail they get to share with us, so that they don’t feel like they don’t have to retell their story multiple times,” she said. “They’re in control of what next steps might look like.”

Treglia also emphasized the Centre’s commitment to working with student groups to reach out to students more effectively, noting that she has seen the 60-page report about sexual violence at U of T released by U of T student grassroots organization Silence is Violence.

However, according to Jessica Wright, representative and researcher at Silence is Violence and PhD candidate at U of T, the Centre could improve its outreach to student groups. Wright believes that U of T’s administration needs to work harder to incorporate the voices of student activists and survivors in the conversation about sexual violence.

“We have yet to hear from the university or see any engagement with the work that [Silence is Violence] did to collect student voices on gender-based violence at U of T,” Wright said. “It remains that those with the most power at the university are determining what students and survivors need, without meaningfully engaging with what student survivors are saying.”

“This is not going to be the most effective way of supporting students on the ground.”

According to Treglia, the Centre is in the process of developing feedback tools to chart its development and weaknesses. Some forms of feedback are already in place, such as the current review of U of T’s sexual violence policy. These responses will be used to pinpoint and address potential areas for growth and change at the Centre.

“We are just in the beginning,” Treglia said. “We know we are reaching people, but we also know we have work to do.”

Where to find sexual violence and harassment support at U of T

A list of safety resources is available at safety.utoronto.ca

The tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre’s website is www.svpscentre.utoronto.ca

Individuals can visit the Centre’s website for more information, contact details, and hours of operation. Centre staff can be reached by phone at 416-978-2266.

Locations:

  • U of T downtown Toronto campus: Gerstein Library, suite B139
  • U of T Mississauga: Davis Building, room 3094G
  • U of T Scarborough: Environmental Science and Chemistry Building, EV141

Those who have experienced sexual violence can also call Campus Police to make a report at 416-978-2222 (St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-569-4333 (U of T Mississauga).

After-hours support is also available at:

  • Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre (416-323-6040)
  • Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Centre (416-495-2400)
  • Trillium Hospital Sexual Assault Care Centre (905-848-7100).

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