Project aims to change culture

11 recommendations come from study to help combat gendered violence


Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

On Tuesday, The Change Project released new information pertaining to sexual and gendered violence based on their research done on Wilfrid Laurier University’s campuses.

This research initiative occurred over a two-year period, in which 570 students were surveyed. Qualitative data was collected from an additional 51 students and faculty through conversations and interviews. Researchers from Laurier’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work led the Change Project along with the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region.

Status of Women Canada, the Laurier Student Life Levy and Mitacs funded the project.

The purpose of the study, as explained at a presentation Tuesday in the Senate and Board Chamber, was to observe trends and find ways to change the environment or culture that reinforces this behaviour.

Findings in the study show that one in three women will experience sexual violence, and women between the ages of 16 to 24 are four times more likely to experience this behaviour.

Additionally, 42 per cent of students said they had friends who disclosed personal experiences with gendered violence to them.

Sara Casselman, public relations and operations manager at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, reported that only nine cases of sexual violence on campus were reported from 2009-13.

“We know that the numbers should be far higher … so what we have to do is change the culture and climate at universities. So students are actually safe to report,” she said.

With the release of the findings, the Change Project is making 11 recommendations to Laurier. These recommendations will aid in addressing sexual and gendered violence on campus.

There are four categories in which the recommendations will be grouped: prioritizing prevention, student-centered response, accountable and transparent leadership and improved collaboration between the university and the community.

“We know that there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to addressing [gendered violence] and that there’s no one simple solution as with any issue around social justice — you need to have a multi-pronged approach that lasts many years,” Casselman said.

The Change Project and the recommendations will be used to inform the action plan the university is launching against gendered violence.

The Gendered Violence Action Plan is grouped in seven categories: leadership, communication, protocol and practices, education and prevention, support and services, community partnerships and assessment. There is an intensive focus on being proactive and providing support, ensuring that all protocols in addressing cases will be effective and helpful.

David McMurray, vice-president of student affairs, said at the presentation that Laurier is eager to implement some of the recommendations that have come out of the research.

“What we see here on the Laurier campus is not that different in schools across the province,” Casselman said. “Sexual and gendered violence is a pervasive issue we know that young people are particularly vulnerable to … and so the recommendations that we made to Laurier are recommendations that can be viewed and used at institutions all across the province.”

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