Collecting data on sexual assault at Laurier

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

On March 15, students at Wilfrid Laurier University received an email from the department of student affairs to participate in a campus safety survey, which will gather students’ perceptions on gendered and sexual violence.

“The survey is addressing gendered and sexual violence on our campuses so we’re surveying all students at the Waterloo, Kitchener and the Brantford campuses and the survey includes questions that are getting at students perceptions of safety,” said Michael Woodford, associate professor in social work.

Questions from the survey touch on various topics, such as peoples’ participation in sexual prevention training and how they perceive the usefulness of programs like bystander training.

Students are also asked about their experiences with sexual assault and gendered violence, ranging from subtle forms such as sexist jokes and offensive text messages to being forced to participate in a sexual act without consent.

“We’re also interested in how likely people are to intervene in various situations, so we asked about bystander intervention and we also ask about perceptions of how one’s peers might intervene so that’s a really important factor for us to understand as well,” said Woodford.

The survey focuses on two areas, with one being attitudes between gendered and sexual violence and the other area targeting those in partner relationships, with questions related to physical assault and “stalking-type behaviours.”

“We’re trying to kind of cover an array of topics through this survey,” Woodford explained.

The Educational Advisory Board, which created the survey, is an organization that supports post-secondary institutions, such as Laurier, across an array of topics including gendered and sexual violence. The gendered violence taskforce also took part in the survey; however, they were limited to the number of questions they could add.

“We don’t have a lot of influence over the questions of the survey, we’re only allowed to add three questions and we’re quite limited in terms of what they can be,” said Lynn Kane, coordinator of the gendered violence taskforce.

“So it’s a great measure for right now to be participating in this survey, but our goal would be to be doing something based more on campus needs locally.”

According to Woodford, the organization will give the university information on how they compare to other post-secondary institutions.

In addition to the summary reports the university will receive from the organization, EAB will also give back data from the surveys. Working groups of the gendered violence taskforce will then take this data and write brief reports, which include action items. Woodford co-chairs the research and assessment committee-working group.

“A critical part for me is not just the data but it’s really for our institution, it’s not just the data it’s really about what do we do with the data, how do we move forward to really address gendered violence on campus.”

The survey is intended for any student at Laurier, including those who believe they have never experienced sexual or gender-based violence. The survey is also focused towards survivors of sexual assault or gendered violence.

“We need to know what happened, what was the context in which that event occurred because that’s going to be really important for us in terms of our prevention programming [and] the policies we develop,” said Woodford.

So far, over 1,004 respondents out of 14,640 have taken the survey on the Waterloo and Kitchener campuses. Over 248 out of 2,989 have participated in the survey on the Brantford campus. Students can participate in the survey until April 8 and can enter their names for an opportunity to win one of 33 e-gift cards.

“It’s going to give us really a snapshot of what the campus is like with respect to gendered and sexual violence,” said Woodford.

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