After months of discussions that began on May 5, 2016, the Working Group for the Sexualized Violence Programs and Policy Development at UVic released their first interim report on Sept. 28.
The purpose of the working group is to develop a comprehensive policy and action framework that will address sexualized violence on campus.
The group is chaired by Annalee Lepp, chair of the Gender Studies department, and consists of 21 members from a variety of departments and programs within UVic, as well as two sub-committees: one on consultation and research, and the second on technical policies.
Of these 21 members, four of them are student representatives on behalf of the UVSS, Graduate Students’ Society, Anti-Violence Project (AVP), and the Sexualized Violence Task Force.
Lepp stated that the group is focused on three areas: education and prevention, support for survivors, and the investigation and adjudication process. “The education and prevention piece is key,” Lepp said.
Education to come in three stages
Emma Kinakin, UVSS Director of Student Affairs and member of the working group, said that the group has identified a three-stage process for education and prevention.
Part one will begin with a pre-arrival stage where students will be given information on consent. “What that looks like is yet to be determined,” Kinakin said, but will likely involve either a video, an interactive piece, or a statement to introduce the language of the policy.
“It won’t focus only on sexualized violence,” Lepp said. “Rather, it’ll focus on what are the values that UVic holds, what does it mean to be a UVic student, and what does it mean to exercise social responsibility on campus — which would include questions of consent.”
Part two will commence during orientation in the first week of September. Kinakin said that the UVSS and AVP already hosts a sexual violence awareness week that now extends into the month with different workshops, talks, and events, but that the policy will also be implemented during this period.
The final step to the education and prevention stage is ongoing education on a campus-wide level.
“What we’re proposing here is that education is not just telling people once that sexualized violence is not acceptable,” Lepp said. “We want to build this environment of consent and respect, but rather that it’s done sequentially and the message is reinforced.”
Report calls for hiring of coordinator
Another part of the report is the proposal for a coordinator that can tailor programs and education on sexualized violence for different groups across campus.
“I think that one of the key things that we’re really committed to,” Lepp said, “is that we’re taking a very intersectional approach to sexualized violence.”
She also explained that experiences of sexualized violence are shaped by multiple factors and can be related to colonial violence, racism, classism, ageism, homophobia, and transphobia.
The working group suggested a coordinator so that there will be consistent messages across campus that can still be tailored to different groups.
“The struggle is trying to make not only a policy that fits everyone,” Kinakin said, “but also an education program that fits all of the people and really addresses everyone on campus because everyone does have different needs.”
The coordinator and policy is meant to keep in mind the complexities of students who already have and don’t have extra support and other opportunities: Indigenous students, international students, students with disabilities, etc.
Kenya Rogers, the policy analyst for AVP and a member of the working group, said that the university has already agreed to hiring the coordinator.
“I think that is a huge thing that the university is taking on,” Rogers said, “but there has to be recognition of the reality that there are lots of folks on campus who do this work already.”
Rogers’ main concern is how to respect all the work that exists on campus, such as AVP and Sexualized Violence Task Force, while bringing in the perspectives of other members on campus.
Ultimately, the policy is going to be survivor-focused. “The university or at least the working group has shown a commitment to do this,” Kinakin said. “So far it has been in all of our conversations and we’ve been really trying to make it that way.”
Kinakin also said the current pathways for dealing with sexualized violence are unclear because the university doesn’t have a policy in place yet. “A large part of the work that we’re doing is trying to roadmap that work for these people so that in the future we have this policy and people aren’t overwhelmed with the options that they have.”
“I think that one of the things we want to make more clear and transparent are what those pathways are,” Lepp said. “What are the options in terms of support, whether they’re on-campus supports, counselling services, health services, and so forth, or if they’re off-campus supports.”
Policy will go beyond Bill 23 requirements
Lepp also stressed the fact that UVic’s policy will encompasses more than just faculty, staff, and students, but also includes campus visitors. “We have a very expansive mandate that goes beyond what the B.C. legislation requires.”
On May 19, 2016, the B.C. legislature enacted Bill 23-2016, otherwise known as The Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act which now requires that “a post-secondary institution must establish and implement a sexual misconduct policy.”
Rogers said that part of the legislation includes an emphasis on developing the policy with extensive consultations. However, she recognizes that “it doesn’t define consultation, so that’s really up to the institution to interpret.”
“I think what differentiates our process from a lot of processes across the country,” Lepp said, “is our extensive consultation[s].”
The interim report includes around fifty consultations from units across campus: student advocacy groups, community groups, individuals, deans, associate deans, etc., with consultations continuing until mid-November.
“I think that the working group tried to be intentional about making sure that folks got opportunities to engage in the consultation process,” Rogers said. “Which is still ongoing; folks can still write in or request a consultation with the working group.”
“One of the things that was super important to us with this interim report,” Lepp said, “is that we are hoping to get greater uptake on the online form in particular.”
The working group will release the draft policy in January, with a round of consultations in February and March to see what the response to the policy is, and then it will be presented to the UVic Board of Governors in May 2017.
For more information on the policy review, including how to participate in consultation, visit uvic.ca/info/sexualizedviolencepolicy/index.php. To read the entire interim report, visit uvic.ca/info/sexualizedviolencepolicy/assets/docs/ProgressReport-2016.pdf.