This week CBC released a report about the ‘worryingly low’ number of reports of sexual assault on Canadian college and university campuses.
It’s important to remember that for all sexual assaults the reporting rate is shockingly low. Only 1-7% of survivors will ever tell police about the assault.
It’s also important to remember the many reasons that keep survivors silent:
- fear of being blamed
- fear that the assault won’t be taken seriously
- fear that they won’t be believed
- fear of further violence from the perpetrator
- fear of having their confidentiality broken
- because they weren’t sure about whether or not what happened was sexual assault
- because they don’t have clear memories of the assault
- and many other concerns
We need to be working every day to end both rape culture and victim blaming. We need to be working to make the world a safer place for survivors to tell their story without fear. We also need to be working to prevent sexual violence so no one ever has to report again.
Some things to consider about the report:
- The numbers reported to campus administration and campus police are too low to be a representation of actual incidences of sexual assaults on campuses. This suggests that there are barriers to reporting and ineffective processes.
- Post-secondary institutions are really inconsistent in how they record this information.
- Some post-secondary institutions do not want to share information on reported sexual assaults. This adds to the myth that sexual assault does not happen on campus.
Want to prevent sexual assault on campus?
Julie Lalonde wrote an incredible report on sexual violence on Canadian campuses that has five recommendations:
- Campuses must meaningfully engage with their community partners
- Campuses must fund anti-sexual violence work on a sustained basis
- Campuses must prevent sexual violence and not simply react to it
- Campus initiatives to address sexual violence must include senior administration
- Campuses must name the problem
SACHA teamed up with YWCA Hamilton to create the It’s Time… project which looked at how McMaster could prevent and respond to violence against women on campus. We put together eight recommendations:
The establishment of the Violence Against Women Working Group of the President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community.
The implementation of the Sexual, Domestic, and Family Violence Response Protocol.
The appointment of a Sexual, Domestic, and Family Violence Response Coordinator.
The development of sustained partnerships with community organizations in Hamilton that specialize in violence against women, culminating in a Women’s Services Satellite Office on campus.
The implementation of the Campus Community Alert Policy which includes concrete assessment criteria for incidents of sexual or gender based violence that constitute a serious or ongoing threat to the campus community.
The implementation of recommendations to policy made via the It’s Time project regarding the Sexual Harassment Policy and the Student and Residence Codes of Conduct.
The implementation of training on violence against women and gender based violence as a core component of mandatory training for all student leaders, faculty, and staff on campus.
The initiation of an annual, campus-wide education and awareness campaign engaging all aspects of the McMaster community on issues of violence against women and gender based violence.
The last word should for sure go to Elizabeth who said on Twitter: “If you want to know why there’s fewer sexual assaults being reported at universities why not ask survivors?”
Thank you to the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres who provided some of the research and information for this post.