A video called "Cycling Through Consent" is one of several used by Western University as part of its programs to prevent sexual violence and harassment.

A video called "Cycling Through Consent" is one of several used by Western University as part of its programs to prevent sexual violence and harassment.
Photo Credit: Western University

University backs proposed law on sexual violence

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Western University says it “applauds” the government of Ontario’s tabling of an action plan to eradicate sexual violence and harassment in that province. The proposed law would require every college and university to have a policy on sexual violence and to review it every three years.

It also obliges employers to investigate incidents and complaints and have sexual harassment prevention programs. In addition, it would get rid of the limitations for civil lawsuits based on sexual assault and limitations for criminal injuries compensation.

One in three women will face sexual assault

One in three women in Canada will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime, says the government of Ontario. The public broadcaster collected statistics on how often such assaults are reported on Canadian campuses. Ontario has promised $41 million to implement its action plan, including funding for community and hospital-based sexual assault centres.

Reaction to the plan was very positive at Western University, says Larissa Bartlett, director of the university’s equity and human rights services. “Western has been working for many, many years on programs in prevention and education around all facets of sexual violence whether it be sexual assault or sexual harassment. So we welcomed the premier’s announcement back in March that there would be legislation forthcoming.”

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Western’s Larissa Bartlett says Western University will review its own policies to make sure they mesh with a government plan to prevent sexual violence and harassment.
Western’s Larissa Bartlett says Western University will review its own policies to make sure they mesh with a government plan to prevent sexual violence and harassment. © Candace Stahlin

Educating students ‘from day one’

Every year for the past eleven, a guest speaker comes to Western to discuss consent with all first-year undergraduate students. “So really, from the day one that students arrive on campus, educating them about safe sex, about what sexual consent means and really that Western is not a community that tolerates any sexual violence,” says Bartlett.

Videos on the subject have been created, some by students themselves, and are posted on the university’s website. One presents a typical party that goes wrong, then reverses events to indicate where interventions along the way could have prevented a bad outcome.

Western working with other universities

Western University says it fully supports the government’s action plan. It will be reviewing its own policies to make sure they conform with the proposed law. And it is already working with other Ontario universities on a protocol to make information about sexual assaults public, as will be required once the law is passed.

Western is also responding to requests from faculty and staff for better training and resources so they can better support anyone reporting sexual harassment or violence.

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