Talking sexual violence prevention

Talking sexual violence prevention

July 22, 2016


[OUTA organizers]
Organizing committee members Roxanne Runyon and Bailey Gerrits are excited by the diversity of speakers attending the upcoming Ontario Universities Taking Action Against Sexual Violence (OUTA) conference, set for Aug. 10-11 at Queen's University. (University Communications) 

An upcoming conference on sexual violence prevention being held at Queen’s University is bringing together a wide range of voices from institutions and in the community to help foster new, stronger connections and networks.

The Ontario Universities Taking Action Against Sexual Violence (OUTA), set for Aug. 10-11, will bring together 150-200 delegates – researchers, administrators, campus service providers, student advocates and policymakers – to share their experiences and knowledge about how best to prevent sexual violence in university contexts.

Organizing committee members Bailey Gerrits, a Trudeau Scholar pursuing a PhD in political studies, and Roxanne Runyon, a master’s student in gender studies, say they are excited by the diversity of the conference’s speakers – from well-known researchers and advocates to frontline community staff – as well as those who will be taking part in the event and sharing their ideas. Also speaking is Tracy MacCharles, the Government of Ontario's Minister Responsible for Women's Issues.

“I think (the diversity is) good for different ideas but also to recognize that all these people from different locations are working on this issue and I think everyone can learn from each other,” says Ms. Gerrits, adding that the impetus of hosting the OUTA conference came from the report she and Ms. Runyon conducted last year for the Kingston branch of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG). “That report identified that if we started talking and learning from each other then sexual violence prevention is inevitably going to be better because there are innovative programs that are happening in pockets that are not getting recognized.”

In line with this the conference will offer a range of keynote speakers and focused panels that address three central themes:

  • effective institutional models of prevention;
  • effective prevention programming;
  • building relationships to end sexual violence.

The conference also is a response to the Government of Ontario’s introduction of Bill 132 and It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, in March 2015, that pinpointed university campuses as sites where intervention and change are greatly needed.

The response to the conference has been positive, the organizers say, and representatives from at least 12 Ontario universities have confirmed they will attend.

With the legislation and an increasing focus on sexual violence on campuses and in the community, the organizers feel the timing is right for hosting the conference.

“I think a lot of the conversations, and rightly so, are on how to respond to sexual violence or around policy because of Bill 132,” Ms. Runyon says. “However, sometimes the conversations, I think because of the focus on response and policy, don’t come around to prevention specifically. Obviously all these things are interrelated but we do think there is value in such a specific conversation.”

In their earlier research the two said they saw a gap on this front. They hope the conference will help make the connections that will push the conversation in that direction.

“People are starting to think about (sexual violence prevention) and I think the conference is well-timed,” Ms. Gerrits says. “There seems to be an appetite for this conversation but one thing for me that is important is that we start from the assumption that ending sexual violence is possible.”

Anyone interested in providing further support for the conference can contact the organizers at

To learn more about the conference, visit the OUTA website.