Brock University is revisiting its sexual assault response protocol in an effort to better prevent and combat sexual violence.
Student and campus organizations, faculty, Campus Security, Human Resources and Student Services have been meeting this spring to discuss prevention measures, complaint procedures, and response protocol. Training of student leaders and first responders will also be updated.
The review comes after the province released its action plan in March to stop sexual violence and harassment. The document calls on Ontario universities and colleges to revisit policies aimed at ensuring the safety of students, staff and faculty while improving supports for assault survivors.
“This action plan has mobilized Brock to review the resources and services we provide and to consider and share best practices,” said Kim Meade, Vice-President Student Services.
Brock’s current protocol outlines how to bring forward complaints, and the resources available to support those who have been assaulted or harassed. Until the action plan’s release calling on all post-secondary institutions to draft specific protocols dealing with the issue, Brock was one of only a handful of Ontario universities to have a standalone policy addressing sexual assault.
Sexual assault statistics in Canada point to the need to re-examine attitudes toward and response to the issue. Research indicates that 460,000 sexual assaults happen each year in Canada, yet for every 1,000 assaults, only 33 are ever reported.
Of those, 12 result in charges being laid, though half of those are never prosecuted and only three lead to a conviction.
Sexual assault rates are also five times higher for women under the age of 35, making universities key players in challenging and changing attitudes and behaviour that contribute to sexual violence and harassment.
Meade said work will be done through the summer to ensure dedicated student education programs that emphasize prevention are in place when classes resume in September.
Those programs will equip people to intervene safely and effectively to prevent victimization. Students will also learn about healthy relationships and the trauma of sexual violence and harassment.
Front-line staff will be trained to ensure survivors receive a sensitive, appropriate response when reporting assaults. The institutional reporting of incidents on campus will also be streamlined.
“We are committed to working with campus-wide stakeholders and community organizations in implementing these measures, and creating and maintaining a safe campus for everyone,” Meade said.