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Reported counts of sexual violence at U of T decreased 64 per cent in 2019–2020 from previous year

SVPSC develops outreach and education, emphasizes variety of programming
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The University Affairs Board heard a report on the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Centre at their November 24 meeting. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY
The University Affairs Board heard a report on the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Centre at their November 24 meeting. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

During a meeting of the University Affairs Board on November 24, U of T’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre (SVPSC) reported on the work that was done in the 18 month period from January 2019 to June 2020. 

The tri-campus centre was established following U of T’s action plan on preventing and responding to sexual violence in 2016. It offers services to people who are affected by sexual violence, ranging from providing referrals for counselling or medical services, to coordinating academic, workplace, or housing accommodations and offering help with legal matters.

The centre also offers education, and is responsible for accepting reports relating to incidents of sexual violence under the university’s sexual violence and sexual harassment policy. The report shows that in the period of January 2019 to June 2020, reports of sexual violence decreased 64 per cent from the previous reporting period, going from 56 incidents to 36. 

The report also showed that, although engagement with the sexual violence prevention education online module decreased significantly, the number of education initiatives held across all campuses, such as information fairs and workshops, has increased to an annual average of 102 from the previously reported 77. Requests for support from students, librarians, staff, and faculty have also increased, to an annual average of 331 requests, as opposed to the previous average of 253.

Additionally, the centre has increased student involvement by hiring a team of work-study students on each campus. “These student employees supported the development of centre programming, assisted with increasing student engagement within our centre activities, and facilitated peer-to-peer learning,” said Angela Treglia, the director of the SVPSC.

One of the centre’s main initiatives to help develop a culture of consent on campus was the #checkinforconsent campaign, which included posters, promotional materials, and social media engagement. Over 800 promotional products were distributed to students in all three campuses and over 20,000 people were reached via social media.

“When someone chooses to access services from us, they will be treated with dignity and respect,” said Treglia. “In our first meeting with someone, we always begin by sharing our practices related to confidentiality and outlining our services.” Treglia said that this ensures that “individuals can make an informed choice as to what information they would like to share.”

Treglia also said that the centre is focused on promoting education and providing services aimed at improving awareness and understanding of sexual violence. These duties are prescribed by a mandate in U of T’s sexual violence and sexual harassment policy that was approved by the governing council in December 2019 and went into effect in January 2020. 

Treglia highlighted the many services that the centre offered during the last reporting period, including self-care programming and panels, outreach booths at campus information fairs to raise awareness, and training and workshops on topics including how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence, identifying and addressing racial and sexual harassment in the workplace, and building a culture of consent to prevent such incidents from happening in the first place. 

As with many other campus services, the SVPSC has now transitioned online in light of the pandemic and is offering its services virtually.

Treglia noted the importance of understanding the disproportionate effect that sexual violence has on marginalized people. “Women of colour, specifically Black and Indigenous women, two-spirited folks, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBTQ2S+, disproportionately experience sexual violence in addition to other forms of violence simultaneously,” she said.