Opinion: Survivors of sexual violence deserve more from U of T

Reporting-focused resources sideline many survivors’ needs and experiences

Opinion: Survivors of sexual violence deserve more from U of T

It took me almost a week to acknowledge that I had experienced an instance of sexual violence. I attributed my debilitating anxiety, disordered eating, and inability to get out of bed each morning to school stress — after all, halfway through my first term of law school, I was surrounded by peers who were struggling just as much, if not more than I was. I called the U of T Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre (SVPSC) twice to no avail. I emailed, and eventually was able to set up an appointment eight days after my first attempt to contact them.

U of T’s official policy and the inefficiencies in the process of reporting through SVPSC have been rightfully criticized before, as has the pervasiveness of rape culture on this campus — an atmosphere which normalizes sexual violence and places the onus on women to not be assaulted. To try to mitigate these issues, campaigns and training sessions held by the university around sexual violence support and prevention largely centre around understanding consent. But this is not enough. The existing resources are severely inadequate for the realities of sexual violence survivors on this campus.

Counselling services at U of T are overburdened and students have been calling for reform for years. Dedicated counselling for sexual assault survivors — that is later transitioned, if necessary, to off-campus resources — would go a long way to facilitate survivor healing.

When I did meet with the SVPSC and disclosed my case, I was told that it does not offer counselling — which I desperately needed — and that I should return if I wanted to formally report, a process which is often traumatic in and of itself, as it requires survivors to relive their experiences in testimonies to university, police, or medical personnel. Reporting means placing a formal report through either the university or the criminal justice system. This process — which can be invasive and potentially humiliating — does not necessarily lead to consequences, either university-related or criminal, for alleged offenders.

I did not report, and I still haven’t. Mandated policies that centre their reporting processes around survivors conveniently ignore the myriad of reasons that survivors choose not to report at all. Being shut down while grasping for support because the SVPSC does not provide counselling is an enormous setback for a survivor who is processing their trauma.

People are much more likely to be sexually assaulted by people they know, people they invite into their homes. The reality is that, sometimes, we want to have sex with the people who violate us. Sometimes, otherwise good people who understand consent push our boundaries. Sometimes, we love the people who hurt us.

Even when I acknowledged that I had been violated, I could not bring myself to use the word ‘assaulted.’ I could not bring myself to call the person who had violated me an ‘assailant’ or a ‘perpetrator.’ Where does that leave young women, especially first-year students, who are statistically more likely to experience an instance of sexual violence in their first few weeks of university?

These systems are difficult to navigate, and they are especially complicated in the days and weeks after a traumatic incident. Though prevention — for example through educational campaigns about consent — is essential, survivors need to be supported through their healing.

Most importantly, we as a community need to address and dismantle our preconceived notions about sexual violence and trauma. The language we use, and the language that consent campaigns use, continues to focus on reporting and fails to provide alternative avenues for accountability.

For a survivor to say they were violated is not to cast the person who violated them as ‘evil,’ or as a ‘horrible person.’ A survivor may, but the need that others feel to defend people as ‘well-intentioned’ or ‘otherwise good-natured’ is harmful. A person can be both those things and still make a mistake. A person can also be a malicious serial perpetrator. Not all sexual violence is created equal, and we need to stop treating it as such.

I personally struggled for weeks after the fact, even as a previous victim of sexual assault and a longtime advocate for sexual violence prevention on university campuses. As a Toronto resident, I had established medical, professional, and personal support systems. I still struggled with the anxiety of running into the person who assaulted me on campus. I still struggled to determine what accountability would look like in a situation where I could not report to the university or the police. I still struggle with it all, months later. My heart goes out to the survivors on this campus who must process their trauma, navigate these systems, find answers to these questions, and heal largely alone.

Reporting-focused sexual violence prevention policies are just the tip of the iceberg for what survivors need to begin the process of healing — a process that is often lifelong. It is time-consuming, and it is particularly difficult while being a student in a large city — especially for young folks who are living away from home for the first time and for students who may not yet have close friends or family in whom they can confide.

We need easily accessible counselling services for U of T students who are survivors to address their unique issues. We need nuanced discussions, training programs, and campaigns about sexual violence that go further than defining terms like sexual violence and consent. At the very least, we need formal avenues to start talking about what accountability can look like outside of formal reporting procedures via the university and the authorities, especially if we want prevention to include helping people who have violated consent learn from their mistakes and not be repeat offenders.

Reporting and formal accountability have their place, but they won’t help a person heal; you need other resources to do that. Healing is what leads to students getting back on track and living their best academic potential.

U of T needs to do more, and it needs to do it better, because survivors deserve so much more than what we get from this university.

Vanshika Dhawan is a first-year student at the Faculty of Law. Dhawan has a Masters of Communications from Ryerson University and completed her thesis on sexual assault and survivor discourses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, you can call:

Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 (Toll Free), 1-866-863-7868 (TTY), and 416-863-0511 (Toronto)

Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse at 1-866-887-0015

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre: Multicultural Women Against Rape at 416-597-8808

Good2Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454

Gerstein Crisis Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200

U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030

Sexual Violence and Prevention Centre at: (416) 978-2266 and svpscentre@utoronto.ca

UTSG: Gerstein Science Information Centre (Gerstein Library), Suite B139

UTM: Davis Building, Room 3094

UTSC: Environmental Science & Chemistry Building, EV141.

Opinion: There are concerning gaps in the university’s sexual violence support systems

First-hand account reveals shortcomings with the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre

Opinion: There are concerning gaps in the university’s sexual violence support systems

Content warning: discussions of sexual violence

U of T’s sexual violence policy received a ‘C’ grade in 2017 from Our Turn, a national action plan resource that gave student unions tools to combat sexual violence on campus.

This should come as no surprise. There are systemic barriers that prevent survivors from coming forward — barriers that include inefficient wait times and a culture that silences conversation at U of T.

The Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre (SVPSC) opened in 2017. From early 2017 to late 2018, only 56 reports of sexual violence were filed through the SVPSC. Only one hearing was held.

The SVPSC can only take academic and legal actions against the perpetrator if the assailant is a member of the U of T community, despite the fact that the assailants are not necessarily students.

Consider that Silence is Violence, a grassroots student advocacy group, found that out of 544 respondents, 109 reported experiencing sexual violence, or something they were uncertain whether to classify as sexual violence, during their time at U of T, which corresponds to around 20 per cent of respondents. This is a far cry from the one hearing held for a student population of 90,077 in 2017–2018.

Of course, the 56 students who chose to report sexual violence may not include students whose assailant was not part of the U of T community, or who chose not to press for academic consequences. Regardless, the number seems disproportionately low.

While each survivor has their own reasons to choose whether or not to disclose, the low proportion is indicative of a larger problem. Rape culture is still present at U of T and can be seen in the casual ways in which members of the community unintentionally place the burden of responsibility on the survivors.

U of T’s policy states that the university is “committed to making available programs and resources to educate its community on the prevention of and response to Sexual Violence.” However, according to a Maclean’s report published in 2018, 38 per cent of U of T students said that no one had properly educated them on how to report sexual assault. This potentially discourages conversation about and reporting of sexual assaults.

While U of T provides avenues to report cases of sexual assault, it becomes redundant if the university does not actively pursue measures to reduce the impact of rape culture. This culture was exemplified in 2017 when a series of posters containing quotes from university members detailing their experience with sexual violence and the university’s lacklustre response were put up by Silence is Violence. The university allegedly later took the posters down, effectively shutting down the conversation.

It is imperative that the university takes an active stance in order to dissipate the toxic environment and, consequently, shows survivors that U of T is serious about providing support. A passive form of ignorance will no longer stand.

With an understanding of the toxic atmosphere survivors face, it is worth noting that the services the university does provide simply do not accommodate the sensitive state of sexual assault survivors.

While there are many statistics to support this point, for an issue as personal as this one, it is worth grounding it in the experience of a survivor who has tried to go through the university’s service channels.

However, the university’s policy does note that reporting can “be initiated in person, by phone, or online,” granting survivors the ability to choose whatever is most comfortable.

According to U of T’s official policy, reporting is defined as detailing the occurrences of an assault which “could result in disciplinary action being taken against the Member of the University Community alleged to have committed Sexual Violence.”

This same disregard for the unique situations of survivors can also be seen in the way the SVPSC processes survivors. The SVPSC asked the source to fill in a form with her personal information, including an emergency contact. In some survivors’ circumstances, this could result in contact with the assailant. Her experience highlights the lack of effective processing within the SVPSC.

To create a safer environment and better resources for survivors to come forward, the university must do more to reduce these potential barriers to access. It is clear that U of T policy tries to stay in line with the province’s approach to sexual assault, but this has proven ineffective.

A review of provincial and university policy, along with the creation of more programs that encourage conversation around sexual assault and the effectiveness of help centres is a necessary starting point.

Alex Levesque is a first-year Social Sciences student at University College.

Review of sexual violence policy finds 56 reports in three years, only one tribunal

As the policy undergoes governance review, data points toward under-reporting

Review of sexual violence policy finds 56 reports in three years, only one tribunal

At the University Affairs Board (UAB) meeting on November 13, in a relatively empty Governing Council chamber, the university’s sexual violence policy went through its first three-year review. The reports presented at the UAB found that from early 2017 to late 2018, there were 56 cases reported through the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre (SVPSC), but during that same time, only one hearing was held.

That hearing saw the respondent admitting to “non-consensual touching.” The respondent was sanctioned with a one-year suspension, a five-year notation on their transcript, and a one-year probationary period after the suspension, limiting contact with the survivor.

This review was part of the mandate of the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act that was passed under former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, which sparked the policy’s creation in the first place. U of T’s proposed revised policy clarified language, but included no substantial changes.

At the same meeting, the university released its numbers for non-academic offences, which included the number of tribunals held in cases where the respondent to a report of sexual violence is a student.

“Cases can be resolved in different ways. Where the respondent is a student, cases may be referred to a hearing under the Code of Student Conduct, but may be resolved before the hearing is conducted,” wrote Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, in an email to The Varsity.

“In making a decision as to whether a matter is referred to a hearing, the wishes of students who come to the centre are always considered,” wrote Welsh. “In some cases they may not want a hearing, and would prefer the matter be resolved in another way.”

How we got here

In 2016, the provincial legislature enacted the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which, through the then-Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, mandated that universities and colleges were to develop independent sexual violence and assault policies. Up until then, U of T’s policy was embedded among several other policies, including the Student Code of Conduct and the university’s Policy and Procedure on Sexual Harassment. Following calls to action from the U of T community, and part of a wider movement across North America in 2014, the university began the process of consulting on revisions for a new policy.

By the time the then-bill reached royal assent in 2016, U of T’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment was undergoing consultations, with the university releasing a draft in September and a final version in November of that year. The policy was the work of years-long consultations, research, and various task force and committee recommendations — including the development of a tri-campus SVPSC.

Since then

In 2017, a year after its release,  U of T’s policy received a “C” grade for its sexual violence policies from Our Turn, a coalition of 20 Canadian student unions. The policy was marked down for lacking mandatory sexual violence sensitivity training, not acknowledging the existence of a rape culture at the university, and not having clearly defined timelines for reports and investigations. The same year, Tamsyn Riddle, a U of T student, filed a human rights complaint against U of T and Trinity College, citing a failed 17-month sexual assault investigation in 2015 and failure of the college to enforce the interim measures imposed on her assailant.

Various reports were released in 2019, reflecting the policy’s first three years: the university’s own SVPSC 2017–2018 report, a report from the U of T student advocacy group for sexual assault survivors Silence is Violence, and the Ontario provincial survey on sexual violence at postsecondary institutions.

The SVPSC reported that 56 cases of sexual violence were filed under the university’s sexual violence policy from the office’s first two years of operation.

Silence is Violence, a grassroots student advocacy group, collected its own data, surveying 544 anonymous students. Of its respondents, 109 reported experiencing at least one instance of sexual violence or were uncertain whether the incident they experienced was an act of sexual violence during their time at U of T. Thirty per cent of respondents indicated that they knew someone who had experienced sexual violence on campus.

The provincial Student Voices on Sexual Assault survey released on March 19 reported that of 26,824 U of T respondents, 4,628 reported experiences of stalking and 12,293 reported instances of sexual harassment, including discrimination and online and physical harassment. It also found that 3,602 U of T students reported non-consensual sexual experiences, which makes up 13.42 per cent of U of T’s respondents.

The revised policy, with clarified language but lacking any substantive additions, will continue through the governance process, where it will ultimately be voted for approval at the December 12 meeting of Governing Council.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities was unable to comment at the time of publication.

Editor’s note (November 18, 6:00 pm): This article has been updated to clarify that the data is compiled from multiple reports. The article has also corrected that the SVPSC report is from 2017–2018, not 2018–2019.

University Affairs Board presents updates on mandated leave policy, reviews sexual violence policy

Vice-Provost, Students, explains long Student Choice Initiative winter opt-out period

University Affairs Board presents updates on mandated leave policy, reviews sexual violence policy

On November 13, the Governing Council’s University Affairs Board passed its yearly review of the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP), its three-year review of the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, and the university’s report on non-academic disciplinary cases. The report on the UMLAP revealed that out of eight cases in the past year, two students requested a review of the decision to use the policy on them, though the university ultimately upheld its original decisions.

Student Choice Initiative

Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh led most of the meeting, giving reports on the various policies up for review and on the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) — the province’s mandate for universities to create an opt-out option for some incidental fees. The winter opt-out period for students — running from November 1 to January 20 — has already begun, Welsh announced at the meeting.

Welsh attributes its lengthy time-frame, weeks longer than the summer opt-out period, to the deadline for adding and dropping classes, and its effect on a student’s full-time or part-time status. The vice-provost also announced that between the last fall collection period and this past one, there was a two per cent reduction in incidental fees collected through the university due to the SCI.

University-mandated leave of absence policy

The UMLAP received an update since its implementation last year. The controversial policy has seen an Ontario Human Rights Commission complaint and waves of student protests.

Welsh reported that the policy had been used in eight cases in the past year, emphasizing that it was only used as a last resort. Two of the student cases took voluntary leave from the school. Of the remaining six, two students requested a review of the policy’s implementation. For both, the policy was sustained, with one student requesting a tribunal, withdrawing the case before the hearing, according to Welsh.

Following her report, Welsh addressed concerns raised about the policy. Specifically, some worry of a broader deterring effect that the policy might have on students in seeking help from mental health resources within the university. Welsh, again, emphasized the extreme and serious nature of the cases on which the policy was enacted, which included risk of harm to others. She further pointed out that any request to invoke the policy needed to be made by a divisional head.

Sexual violence policy updates, non-academic discipline report

During Welsh’s presentation of the revisions for the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in its first three-year review, she lamented the Ontario government-imposed deadline for the report, which tightened the timeline for consultations, after winter exams had already began. Changes were also passed to the Code of Student Conduct to reflect the jurisdictional divide between the two policies.

Finally, Welsh presented the university’s annual report on cases of non-academic discipline: the governance document details specific counts of incidents. Among 12 cases there were 17 offences: 10 offences against persons, four offences of unauthorized use of university equipment, one offence against property, one abetting offence, and one offence of disruption.

Sexual violence survey results “deeply saddening,” MPP Piccini says

TCU Parliamentary Assistant talks delay in report’s release, working with student groups

Sexual violence survey results “deeply saddening,” MPP Piccini says

Content warning: discussions of sexual violence.

In light of the provincial government releasing the results of an Ontario-wide sexual violence survey on March 19, The Varsity sat down with David Piccini, current MPP for Northumberland—Peterborough South and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU), to discuss the implications of the results and the delay in their release.

Student Voices on Sexual Violence was a survey commissioned by the previous Liberal government’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (AESD), the Ministry of TCU under the current Progressive Conservative government.

“It’s, as far as I’m aware, the most comprehensive and in-depth look that’s gone to campuses and colleges around Ontario,” Piccini said.

It was sent to over 746,000 full-time students in all provincially-funded postsecondary institutions from February to April 2018. Across Ontario, over 160,000 students responded.

The results showed that at U of T, 61.7 per cent of respondents reported that they did not understand how to access supports, including how to report sexual violence. In addition, 22.9 per cent reported being dissatisfied with U of T’s response to sexual violence, 22.1 per cent reported that they had been stalked, 17.2 per cent reported a non-consensual sexual experience, and 58.7 per cent reported experiencing sexual harassment.

“The results were deeply saddening,” Piccini said. “One experience of assault or harassment on campus is really one too many.”

Piccini emphasized that the ministry took immediate action, mentioning the four initiatives released by TCU Minister Merrilee Fullerton alongside the release of the report.

Fullerton announced that the government would double the Women’s Campus Safety Grant, and require publicly-assisted colleges and universities to review their sexual violence policies by September, deliver annual reports to their board of governors about measures taken in response to sexual violence on campus, and create task forces to address sexual violence on campuses.

When asked about the potential release of further results from the survey, Piccini told The Varsity that the ministry has “referred [the report] to the Privacy Commissioner,” echoing Fullerton’s statements at the press conference when the report was released.

Fullerton had said that Ontario’s Information & Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish will be consulted “on the release of additional survey results.”

When asked about why there was a delay in the release of the report, Piccini confirmed that it was a delay on the part of CCI Research, the company that developed and distributed the survey.

Piccini told The Varsity that the TCU received the survey results on March 17, two days prior to the public release on March 19. He also confirmed that postsecondary institutions received the report prior to its public release.

This is a marked shift from the release plan of the previous Liberal government, as this timeline leaves a window of no more than a day between when the report was released to postsecondary institutions and when it was released to the public.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail last year, Mitzie Hunter, previous Minister of AESD and current MPP of Scarborough—Guildwood, said that the results would be shared with postsecondary institutions in summer 2018. Hunter added that some of the data would be made public and has since criticized the Ford government for “hiding” the results.

However, Piccini contradicted this point. “The previous government had no plans to release this to the public,” he said.

When asked about Hunter’s statement that the AESD had planned to publicly release the data, Piccini said, “I can’t speculate on what she was planning or what she wasn’t planning when we were given this report.”

In terms of implementing the four initiatives, Piccini said that he expects “an ongoing dialogue.”

“The realities are different from one campus to the next. The geographic realities, the size, the various different marginalized groups on campus all present unique challenges that I think must be addressed uniquely to that institution.”

He emphasized his commitment to work further with student groups across campuses to discuss and develop better strategies to continue the conversation about the issue of sexual violence on campus.

“There is not a group I will not meet with,” he said.

When asked if there are any more initiatives on the horizon from the ministry surrounding this issue, Piccini did not give any specific examples, but he cited the ministry’s commitment to viewing this issue holistically, involving mental health in the discussion, and continuing “this ongoing dialogue, and ongoing discussions we’re having with universities.”

“[It’s] important to engage students,” he said. “The solutions to this are going to involve all of us, our entire community.”

Ontario government releases long-awaited results of survey on sexual violence at university campuses

Government doubles funding to Women’s Campus Safety Grant, implements new reporting requirements for universities

Ontario government releases long-awaited results of survey on sexual violence at university campuses

Content warning: descriptions of sexual violence.

A high number of reported sexual harassment, non-consensual sexual experiences, and lack of knowledge around university support systems were sobering highlights from the results of a sexual violence survey released on March 19 by the provincial government.

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey was sent to over 746,000 full-time students in Ontario from February to March 2018 by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, now the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU).

The ministry had come under fire for the delay in releasing results, following reporting by The Varsity and the Queen’s Journal, Queen’s University’s student newspaper.

TCU Minister Merrilee Fullerton acknowledged that the released results were not comprehensive because the government needed to “protect the privacy of the survey participants.” She said that the ministry will be consulting Ontario’s Information & Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish “on the release of additional survey results.”

In response to the released results, Fullerton announced that the provincial government plans to double investment in the Women’s Campus Safety Grant this year to $6 million. The annual grant funds campus initiatives including public education, drafting policy to prevent sexual violence, and improving security systems at universities.

The government will also require all publicly-assisted colleges and universities to review their sexual violence policies by September, create task forces to address sexual violence on campus, and draft an annual reports to their board of governors about measures taken in response to sexual violence on campus.

Survey results

A 37-page report summarizes the survey, which was administered by CCI Research Inc. and includes responses from 117,148 full-time university students of 441,499 invited, among other categories.

The report warns against interpretations of smaller data sets and comparing data between institutions; due to the voluntary nature of the report, each institution had a differing number of respondents.

Of 104,238 responses to five questions about knowledge of sexual violence supports at U of T, 61.7 per cent reported that they did not understand how to access supports related to sexual violence and did not understand the wider process for reporting incidents of sexual violence.

Out of 3,514 responses to eight questions, 42.4 per cent reported dissatisfaction with the U of T’s institutional response to sexual violence, which includes believing survivors of sexual violence and creating an environment where sexual violence is recognized as a problem.

In U of T students’ perception of consent, 89.6 per cent of 146,068 responses to seven questions demonstrated an understanding of consent as: revocable at any time, not measured by physical resistance, and required even when affected by decision-altering substances, among others — the remaining responses either took a neutral stance or disagreed with the above definitions.

U of T also had a high proportion of students who reported witnessing sexual violence including physical or verbal abuse, helping someone who was intoxicated, or informing university officials.

68.7 per cent of respondents reported being witnesses, with 67.3 per cent of those saying that they intervened in situations when incidents of sexual violence were witnessed.

4,628 respondents from U of T reported experiences of stalking and 12,293 reported instances of sexual harassment, including discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation and online and physical harassment.

3,602 out of 20,942 U of T students reported non-consensual sexual experiences, part of the 26,824 students from the broader university sector who reported instances of non-consensual sexual experiences.

New Democratic Party criticizes funding as insufficient

In response to a question asked during a press conference on the topic about whether the survey’s results warrant “greater action” than her announcements today, Fullerton said that the government’s plans are an “immediate response to an issue that has only just been reported back to [them],” but did not give further specifics about future plans.

Suze Morrison, a New Democratic Party MPP and the official opposition critic for women’s issues, lambasted the funding increase to the Women’s Campus Safety Grant as insufficient. She said that if the Ontario government was “serious about addressing the underlying systemic issues of… gender-based and sexual violence,” it would deliver on “promised funding to rape crisis centres across Ontario.”

The previous Liberal government had promised $14.8 million over three years to these centres as part of its gender-based violence strategy, but the current Progressive Conservative government has suspended plans for this funding.

Council of Ontario Universities welcomes data, U of T hopes to expand outreach

Sandy Welsh, leader of the Council of Ontario Universities’ Reference Group on Sexual Violence and Vice-Provost Students at U of T, was asked by The Varsity if her group would conduct follow-up or recurring surveys on sexual violence. Welsh deferred to the ministry, saying, “I cannot speak for what the ministry may do. I think it’s an important survey. We’re glad to have these results and look forward to any discussions in the future about other ways to survey.”

U of T Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre Director Angela Treglia spoke to The Varsity on the low proportion of students who felt that they understood the process for reporting instances of sexual violence.

“We have work to do to build and develop the awareness of the services that are available to people who’ve been affected by sexual violence on our campuses,” Treglia said. “We know and we want to get it right.”

The centre is a recent tri-campus development, having opened in 2017 with Treglia’s appointment as director. According the Treglia, the centre has held 200 workshops, reaching 8,000 participants at U of T, and continues to develop a system for supporting students so that “they have a place that they can go for confidential support and know that they’re not alone.”

On whether the initiatives announced by the ministry would be helpful to the centre, Treglia declined to comment. Treglia later went on to say that “we are striving and committed to creating a culture of care and a culture of consent on our campus.”


If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, you can call:

  • Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 (Toll Free), 1-866-863-7868 (TTY), and 416-863-0511 (Toronto)
  • Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse at 1-866-887-0015
  • Toronto Rape Crisis Centre: Multicultural Women Against Rape at 416-597-8808
  • Good2Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Gerstein Crisis Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030
  • Sexual Violence and Prevention Centre at: (416) 978-2266 and svpscentre@utoronto.ca
    • UTSG: Gerstein Science Information Centre (Gerstein Library), Suite B139
    • UTM: Davis Building, Room 3094
    • UTSC: Environmental Science & Chemistry Building, EV141.

U of T student Samuel Marrello sentenced to 12 months probation, no jail time

Marrello was convicted of assault causing bodily harm against another student, found not guilty of sexual assault

U of T student Samuel Marrello sentenced to 12 months probation, no jail time

Content warning: descriptions of sexual violence.

U of T student Samuel Marrello has been sentenced to 12 months of probation and no jail time for the crime of assault causing bodily harm against a fellow U of T student.

Marrello was also charged with sexual assault, but was found not guilty of that charge in the verdict delivered on September 25.

Marrello was originally accused of hitting and sexually assaulting the complainant, who cannot be named due to a publication ban protecting her identity, while she was intermittently blacked out from intoxication and apparently could not consent to sex.

Following the verdict, the Crown sought a four-month jail sentence and 12 months of probation, while Marrello’s defence counsel sought a suspended sentence.

The incident occurred on April 1, 2017 and the trial began more than a year later on June 25, 2018.

The sentencing was handed down on February 4 by Justice C. Ann Nelson after a months-long deliberation process.

The deliberation

The complainant did not submit a victim impact statement, nor did she attend any of the sentencing dates.

In its arguments, the Crown called Marrello’s actions a “betrayal of trust” and a case of “gratuitous, demeaning violence.”

The Crown added that there is no indication that Marrello would not commit the same crime again, adding that he poses “some risk to future sexual partners.”

In court, Nelson read from her judgment that Marrello has already suffered collateral damage from the charges, including media coverage, online attacks, and relocation to Kingston after his roommates asked him to vacate their apartment.

She added that Marrello is a young man of otherwise good character, who is regarded as “intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious.”

Nelson said that his friends and family, many of whom were in court to support him, would provide a framework to prevent this from happening in the future.

Though the complainant’s “injuries were not insignificant” and Marrello’s actions were “reckless” and “opportunistic,” Nelson said that the “objective of rehabilitation remains large” and she thus found that a jail sentence was not appropriate.

Marrello will need to do 50 hours of community service during his probation, and have no contact with the complainant or attend any place where she might be, unless it is because they both study at U of T.

University’s response

When asked if the university would be taking any action, U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church wrote to The Varsity, “We can’t discuss the specifics of a particular case because of personal privacy.”

“In general, when we are aware of conditions imposed by the court, the university ensures that measures and steps are in place to support those conditions.”

According to the U of T Code of Student Conduct, which governs students’ behaviour, “No person shall otherwise assault another person, threaten any other person with bodily harm, or knowingly cause any other person to fear bodily harm.”

Marrello’s lawyer did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment. The Crown declined to comment on the sentence.

Ontario government needs to stop “hiding” results of sexual violence survey, MPP Mitzie Hunter says

Minister Fullerton refutes Hunter’s allegations, citing privacy concerns

Ontario government needs to stop “hiding” results of sexual violence survey, MPP Mitzie Hunter says

After The Varsity and the Queen’s Journal reported that the Ontario government still has not released data from a province-wide sexual violence survey conducted last year, the Liberal MPP who initiated the survey has rebuked the Progressive Conservatives (PC) for “hiding” the results, further linking it to criticisms of the PC changes to postsecondary education.

On February 12, Mitzie Hunter, former Liberal Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development (AESD) and current MPP for Scarborough—Guildwood, released a statement demanding that the Ford government release the results of the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey.

Under Hunter, the survey was developed and administered by the Ministry of AESD, currently known as the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU), and sent to all postsecondary institutions in the province.

Months after the estimated date set by the previous Liberal administration for the release of the survey data, schools and students alike still have not seen the results.

Merrilee Fullerton, the current Minister of TCU, adopted the responsibility of handling the release of the survey results when she succeeded Hunter. When asked by The Varsity about the results, Fullerton said that privacy concerns have caused the delay.

In her statement released this week, Hunter said, “This is a report that should have been released months ago. The Minister’s excuses so far have no credibility.”

In a previous interview with The Varsity, Hunter said that when developing the survey, “There was thought given to confidentiality and the privacy of those [completing] the survey.”

“[The government] has been hiding a report that will shed light on sexual violence on university campuses,” Hunter wrote in her statement. “What’s concerning is that universities and colleges won’t have money to take action on this report once it’s released,” referring to the province’s 10 per cent cut to tuition.

“Ford’s post-secondary education plan is taking millions of dollars out of post-secondary institutions… there will be limited money at best to combat sexual violence on campus,” Hunter wrote.

In response, Fullerton released a statement saying, “I am deeply disappointed in MPP Hunter, who used to be a Minister of the crown and is now choosing to politicize the privacy of sexual assault survivors.”

Fullerton reiterated the privacy concerns. “When I am satisfied the data fully protects participant privacy, I will release the survey results on this important issue. I will not be rushed into reckless action, as MPP Hunter suggests.”

When asked by The Varsity for an approximate timeline for the release of the survey results, Fullerton’s Director of Communications Stephanie Rea said that no date has been set, as “it depends on how long the vendor takes.”

When asked about the privacy concerns, Rea said that the Ministry of TCU “[has] not seen the data. It is still with the vendor, and will not be released to us until it is proven all confidentiality has been maintained.”

When The Varsity previously reached out to the vendor, CCI Research, it referred all questions to the Ministry of TCU.