Response from the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Taskforce

Introduction

The task force strongly endorses the From Input to Action: Your Voice Matters report and is committed to using it to continue to raise awareness, drive change and reduce sexual violence at Queen’s. One experience is too many. 
 
This report further illuminates students’ lived experiences, beliefs, feelings, and behaviours with respect to diversity, inclusion, and sexual violence . The statistics and quotes are holistic and authentic – they are presented in a way that will support students in accessing and engaging with the data, and identifying additional actions that can be taken to drive and sustain change. 
 
In particular, the task force highlights the following:

  • 58% of students who completed the survey believe sexual violence is a problem at Queen’s; 7% don’t see it as a problem, including 14% of male-identified respondents
  • 6% of students who completed the survey reported having experienced sexual violence since the beginning of the term
  • 59% of those students said they had been taken advantage of when they were incapacitated (too drunk, high, asleep, out of it) 
  • 50% of respondents indicated they are aware of the confidential campus-based resources available
  • 30% say they have received information or training on the definition of sexual violence, how to report an incident, resources, prevention strategies, and/or bystander intervention skills.

These survey findings provide the task force - and the Queen’s community - with clear opportunities to build on initiatives resulting from reports that have informed and guided the task force’s work, including the 2018 provincial Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey, and Queen’s NCHA data, as well as sector-leading frameworks such as the Courage to Act Report. 
 
The data reflect and reinforce the connections between sexual violence and campus culture and climate. The task force invites the campus community to engage in hard conversations about these realities. What is it about our culture that can facilitate sexual violence - we need to acknowledge the presence of various forms of stigma, harassment, discrimination, and micro aggressions that are persistent and damaging, especially among survivors with diverse identities, disabilities, and backgrounds. How we can create healthy conditions where all students feel safe, are safe, and where they can thrive? These higher-level discussions are as important as our focus on service delivery and ensuring appropriate survivor-centric response process and supports. 

In considering From Input to Action, we highlight the following areas of focus and prioritization for the task force, as we work to enhance the university’s policies, programs, and services to create a safer campus for all, and those students at greatest risk of sexual violence. 

The Role of Alcohol

The data show the pervasive and significant link between alcohol and sexual violence: 

  • 44% of those survey respondents who experienced sexual violence reported their perpetrator had been drinking alcohol, but was not drunk 
  • 27% reported their perpetrator was drunk 
  • 31% said they felt their perpetrator tried to get them drunk 

The task force stresses the importance of centering or bringing the role of alcohol into conversations about sexual violence and consent on campus. Upcoming student health and wellness surveys in the winter term provide additional opportunities to learn about and discuss the impacts of substance use and abuse on students’ lives, including experiences of sexual violence and harassment. Joining forces with other groups on campus engaged in harm reduction work to develop new initiatives to address this issue (e.g. Alcohol Working Group, Health Promotion in Student Wellness Services, and the Gender-Based Violence Awareness and Bystander Intervention program (see below) could help decrease the risks and incidents of sexual violence. 

Role of Patriarchy

The task force highlights the intersections of sexual violence, gender-based violence, and identity. Among the survey respondents who experienced sexual violence, their perpetrators are overwhelmingly identified as male (87%). While 64% of female-identified survey respondents feel sexual violence is a problem at Queen’s, as do 60% of non-binary or Two Spirit respondents, 43% of male respondents feel that way, 42% of male respondents don’t know if it is or not, and 14% don’t believe it’s really a problem. While there are currently few evidence-based approaches to tackling this reality, the task force believes it requires attention and focus. In particular, male leadership and the engagement of male-identified students is important. 

Role of Gender Identity 

The data clearly show the connections between experiences of sexual violence, gender and other marginalized identities, and the increased risks faced by students who are made vulnerable due to sexism, misogyny, queer/transphobia, and ableism on campus. The data show non-binary students and students with disabilities are at greatest risk of sexual violence. These students must be prioritized for support through targeted initiatives, interventions, and services. The work of the new Sexual and Gender Diversity Advisor in the Yellow House is an exciting and promising part of our path forward, as is the work of the Provost’s Action Group for Gender and Sexual Diversity (PAGGAS). 

Increasing student awareness of, and participation in, trainings and programming 

The resource sections throughout the report effectively highlight the gap between the existence of varied and substantial campus supports and the lack of student awareness of these supports that is reflected in the data. For example, only 30% of student respondents said they had received information or training at school about sexual violence or bystander intervention; half of students reported knowing where to go to get help, and 37% stated they understood how to file a complaint concerning sexual violence.  There is clearly a need for more outreach and education. 
 
In particular, the task force could focus on supporting intentional, targeted and sustained promotion of the peer-led Gender-Based Violence Awareness and Bystander Intervention and Certificate Program. Student leaders and facilitators have many ideas and plans for driving engagement, including: 

  • Extending Sexual Violence Week to Sexual Violence Month
  • Contacting all departments, creating slides to be shown by instructors highlighting the program with a QR code for quick access to more information 
  • Promotion in student newsletters, and signage on campus
  • Revamping content to be completely survivor-centric 
  • Social media promotion 
  • Mandating trainings for club and student leaders 
  • Implementing automated follow up communications to workshop participants 3 and 6 months after the training to prompt content review to keep it fresh and in their minds and relevant to their lives

Increasing training and education participation and completion rates would build students’ knowledge, skills, and accountability to help prevent violence. Consent education is also key. The AMS is also engaged in sexual violence prevention awareness work, as is the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Service.  Peer-led activities and promotion will be most effective, as many students turn to their peers for support, assistance and information. 

Next Steps 

The task force will develop actions plans for these identified areas of focus, with implementation starting immediately in the winter 2022 term. 
 
The task force will further be informed by the outcomes of survey’s Student Engagement Strategy that gets underway in January, and by data that will be gathered in 2022 through the NCHA, the new Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey, and Health Canada’s Post-Secondary Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, all of which are being administered at Queen’s in the winter term.  
 
The task force thanks the survey project team for its significant work on this report, and all students who took the time to participate and share insight and perspectives on what are challenging and deeply personal subjects. 
 
The From Input to Action: Your Voice Matters report, and in particular the sexual violence-related data, will enable and further empower the task force to create a safer and more inclusive campus and shift the culture towards one free of sexual violence.