OUSA advocates for solutions to gendered violence on post-secondary campuses

Graphic by Kashyap Patel

May was Sexual Assault Prevention Month, and in lieu of this, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), in partnership with student organizations across the country, have released a journal entitled Shared Perspectives: A Joint Publication on Campus Sexual Violence Prevention and Response.

The publication gives student-run organizations from across the country the opportunity to lobby against sexual violence on Canadian post-secondary campuses, the status of current provincial and federal policies, and the need to stimulate further progress.

Shannon Kelly, vice-president of student affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Students’ Union and representative of Laurier students at OUSA, spoke in-depth about Shared Perspectives, its purpose and the status of sexual violence policies in Ontario’s post-secondary institutions.

“My job is to lobby and advocate for student needs on a provincial and federal level,” Kelly said.

“[OUSA sits] on what’s called a steering committee, which is similar to the board of directors, where we help decide on priorities for the upcoming year.”

Shared Perspectives was written and sent to the provincial and federal levels of government in order to lobby for solutions to gendered violence on campuses and improvement of policies. The spotlight is then turned onto Bill 132.

“Bill 132 was implemented, basically saying that all post-secondary institutions had to have some kind of gendered violence policy,” Kelly said.

“[The publication is] looking into the two years after this has been enacted and … looking into accountability measures in terms of reporting to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skill Development, [tracking] how this policy is going and also track how cases are being treated.”

The journal highlights every province individually, emphasizing that each has their own specific concerns that require catered solutions. As well, highlighting the varying provincial policies that have been enacted to rectify sexual violence and how effective they have been.

Case studies are prominent within the journal and serve as a framework for policy assessment and critique. One particular survey of Canadian institutions found that 20 per cent of female students, 46.7 per cent of LGBTQ+ students and 6.9 per cent of male students have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

“You’ll see throughout the report that many different schools have tried many different methods, and some are really positive, but sometimes we need more on our campuses,” Kelly said.

One of the central concerns OUSA has expressed is the absence of student voices and survivor-centric approaches in sexual violence policies, which can make policies ineffective and even harmful for survivors.

“There’s no one size fits all answer when it comes to gendered violence,” Kelly added. “There’s always room for improvement.”

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