Consent focus for task force
Faculty and student involvement rises in Gendered Violence Task Force
Highlighted in the media and across campuses in Canada is the necessity and importance of consent. At Wilfrid Laurier University, there is the formation of the school’s Gendered Violence Task Force, coordinated by Lynn Kane of the Diversity and Equity Office.
“The gendered violence task force began a couple of years ago in response to a students’ open letter which was published in The Cord … about sexual assault and a lack of response on campus,” Kane explained.
“A small group of us began meeting, but it was a small group and I don’t think everyone was at the table who needed to be at the table. So we did a larger call out in September and heard back from over 150 people from the Laurier community, and that’s when we really began our work in earnest.”
About a year in as a fully-formed group, the task force now has a steering committee of 20 to 30 faculty, staff, student and community representatives, along with five working groups.
Kane believes student involvement in the task force is just as important as faculty involvement.
“Students are really people who get things started, keep things moving, hold us accountable, and are really strong advocates for themselves and for their peers, but I wouldn’t say that faculty roles are that much different. The faculty were students once too and are advocates for the students.”
In terms of preventative measures, the task force offers bystander workshops to help people identify dangerous situations and intervene in a way that keeps themselves and others safe.
“It helps people identify what is considered part of the spectrum of gendered violence … people are more able to do something about it if they know what it is,” Kane said.
As for education needed for the general student population?
“Education on consent is very important,” Kane said. “And I think students need to know more about what that means.”
In March, CBC reported that 40 per cent of Laurier students surveyed had experienced gendered violence. The survey was run by The Change Project and showed that in 570 surveys taken during a one-month period in 2013, “18.5 per cent said they’d been discriminated based on their gender, 13.4 per cent had been victims of sexual assault and 6.3 per cent had experienced intimate partner violence.”
Many knew other students who had experienced gendered violence, with 25.3 per cent knowing a victim of sexual assault and 36.9 per cent knowing someone who had experienced gender discrimination, also according to CBC.
A University of Alberta study found that nearly half of sexual assaults experienced at the university took place under the influence of alcohol.
A concern posed by these issues is the safety of students.
“I personally know everyone involved is doing everything they can to make sure that students are safe,” said Kane, when asked if enough is being done. “But that said, this is also a learning experience for all of us … you think that you’ve understood the full complexity of an issue but only in dealing with particular cases do you learn all of the textures and complexities of something … So we are really doing what we can but I’m not going to say that we’re perfect.”