Content warning: discussions of sexual violence.
It’s no secret that university campuses continue to experience high rates of sexual assault and harassment. UTSG, UTM, and UTSC are no exception. As you begin your time as a U of T student, it is important to ensure that you are well-informed of potential avenues for action should you require or choose them.
Don’t be too alarmed though. We all share space with and responsibility for one another, and people know to keep an eye out for their fellow students.
However, if you experience sexual violence as a student, know that you are not to blame and that you have agency moving forward. Sexual violence survivors are not obligated to pursue formal resolution, nor to disclose their experiences to officials affiliated with the school. They may want to consider seeking safety and support from their family or close friends, visiting a hospital, or getting in touch with a shelter.
But should you ever need or wish to access the resources which are available to you or report a sexual assault as a student, here’s what you should know:
Recognizing sexual violence
The University of Toronto’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment defines sexual violence as “any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent.” This also includes acts committed online.
In short, “sexual violence” is an umbrella term which includes both sexual harassment and assault. If you are uncertain whether your experience qualifies as sexual violence, harassment, or assault, you can consult the University of Toronto’s Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre (SVPSC).
To disclose or to report?
The university has two distinct avenues of response for sexual violence: disclosing and reporting. The decision to carry out one, both, or neither is entirely up to you. However, it can be useful to seek independent legal advice when weighing your options.
Disclosure occurs whenever you share your experience with any member of the U of T community, including students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows. Deciding to disclose your experience allows you access to support and resources from the university itself. These can be helpful for coping with the complex emotions that result from assault or harassment.
A report occurs when a disclosure is made with the intention of pursuing a formal response through either the university or the criminal justice system. When a report is made, it may result in an investigation with measures to be implemented depending on the findings. You can report an incident of sexual violence if you so choose.
To make a report to the university in a non-emergency situation, you can get in touch with the SVPSC. Consequences for offenders may include imposition of disciplinary measures, like expulsion, based on investigative findings. The university may take further steps to prevent interaction between you and the respondent, or they may grant you academic or workplace accommodations.
It is also possible to file a report with campus or local police. This report, and any resulting police investigations, remain separate and distinct from any processes you undertake with the university, although the university will be notified that the investigations are ongoing. Reports to the police differ from the SVPSC reports in that they may lead to criminal proceedings, thus allowing for any resulting sanctions to be imposed by the legal system.
Making a police report is appropriate in both emergency and non-emergency situations — if you are in immediate danger, contacting the police may be a wise course of action.
If you encounter sexual violence as a member of the U of T community, you can reach out to your closest SVPSC. The SVPSC staff are trained to provide confidential consultation sessions for students who have been affected by sexual violence or harassment.
SVPSC staff members are able to provide support in the aftermath of sexual violence, as well as guide you through your options, which may vary based on your circumstances. A consultation can provide you with advice regarding the processes of disclosing or reporting, referrals to resources like counsellors, instruction on self-care techniques, and more.
Speaking to the SVPSC does not constitute making a report unless you want it to.
You can call the SVPSC at 416-978-2266.
Alternatively, you can visit one of its locations:
Gerstein Science Information Centre, 9 King’s College Circle, Suite B139
Davis Building, 1867 Inner Circle, Room 3094G
Environmental Science & Chemistry Building, 1065 Military Trail, Room 141
Hours of operation for all three campuses:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Your off-campus resources
The SVPSC does not provide immediate medical care, but it recommends that you seek out medical care regardless of whether or not you’re aware of any injuries. You can do so at Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centres.
These centres are equipped to gather forensic evidence in cases of sexual assault. Evidence is best collected within 72 hours of an incident. Waiting longer than that, changing your clothes, or taking a shower will make evidence collection more difficult, but not impossible. The process of evidence collection does not automatically initiate a report with the university or police, but can be useful if you choose to open one.
Women’s College Hospital, 76 Grenville Street, Acute Ambulatory Care Unit, Room 1256
Trillium Health Centre, 100 Queensway West, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Services
Scarborough Health Network, Birchmount Site, 3030 Birchmount Road, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre, third floor