Ontario’s colleges have created a sexual assault policy that will soon be implemented provincewide.
The presidents of 24 public colleges voted last week to endorse a uniform policy that provides a clear path for victims of sexual violence and clearly outlines a school’s responsibility.
They will now take the next two months to consult with local groups before putting finalized policies in place at each school, said Colleges Ontario, the regulatory body that oversees all the province’s colleges.
Sexual assault has become an increasingly pressing issue as college and university sexual assault investigations have drawn criticism on campuses.
“Every school I worked at, although they all have ways of dealing with sexual assault because it’s a reality unfortunately, not very many places have a dedicated policy that deals with sexual assault,” said Rob Kilfoyle, director of Public Safety and Emergency Management at Humber North. “Sexual assault is usually rolled into some other policy, so we welcome the standardization.”
Kilfoyle said that Humber has a “comprehensive way” of dealing with sexual assault.
“We take a student-supportive structured approach, so our first priority is the safety and security and well-being of the person who is making the complaint,” he said.
“We want to make sure they are out of immediate harms way depending on the nature of what has occurred, make sure that they have appropriate supports offered to them right up front, and that they are made aware of what supports are available to them.”
Although several colleges have measures in place to both try to prevent and remedy issues involving sexual assault, the system has yet to create a standard policy across campuses.
“I’m really excited about what’s come from Colleges Ontario for sure,” said Catherine McKee, Registered Nurse Coordinator at North and Lakeshore campuses. “We had already started the process of drafting a sexual assault policy so I think it’ll help us be more in line with what other institutions are doing.”
Samantha Ortiz, a post-graduate student in her first year in human resources at Humber Lakeshore said she is familiar with the issue of sexual assault at her previous campus. “They told us about it, they emailed us about the sexual assaults happening but they didn’t really tell us what they were doing to fix the problem – and it kept happening.”
Coming to Humber, Ortiz has not experienced any issues with sexual assault or sexual assault complaints and said she feels at ease on campus. “We have phones in case you have an emergency and we have a lot of security so I feel safe,” she said.
Ortiz said it would be helpful if there was more information available to students on who to talk to if something happens.
The new uniform policy would be an initiative towards involving the student body across university and college campuses in the development of sexual assault policies.
Humber students who are sexual assault survivors have several options available to them.
“There’s a counseling centre, there’s a health centre, lots of times they come to report it to our office in Student Life or Public Safety,” said McKee.
McKee said that Humber has a partnership with Chantal’s Place, a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor support network that offers counseling supports and referrals to community supports as well.
The colleges will publicize new sexual assault policies by March 31, said Linda Franklin, the president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, in a press release.
“Our campuses must be safe and welcoming and we must ensure immediate and effective help is available to victims of sexual assault,” said Franklin. “The information will be easy to access and will be actively promoted at all colleges so that everyone’s rights are clearly understood and victims get the support they need.”