By KAITLYN ALLEN
More than 160,000 post-secondary students throughout Ontario completed the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey to inform their schools and the province about their experiences, beliefs and attitudes surrounding sexual violence.
The survey, described by research firm CCI Research as “the largest post-secondary survey ever conducted in Ontario,” was circulated via email between March 5 and April 2.
The survey advertises, “being a part of an important effort to make campuses safer,” as a potential benefit.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, one-in-five women will experience sexual violence while studying at a post-secondary institution.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) describes sexual violence as any physical or psychological act “committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent.”
Examples include sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism and sexual exploitation.
The survey, created by The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD), assesses a post-secondary institution’s ability to address sexual violence on campus and support survivors.
The Ministry says survey results will help colleges and universities build awareness of sexual violence, improve policies and processes, and enhance support services for survivors.
“The results will continue to inform the next stages of Niagara College’s ongoing initiatives to address the important issue of sexual violence,” says Niagara College communications manager Michael Wales.
According to MAESD the survey will provide institutions the opportunity to review results and make necessary changes where students identify gaps.
The college’s current initiatives to reduce sexual violence include the Consent is Key campaign, created in coordination with the Student Administrative Council.
Niagara College launched the campaign in 2015 to educate students about the importance of sexual consent.
The college also developed a sexual assault policy in 2015 and as of 2016 requires all employees to complete mandatory sexual assault training.
“These initiatives are part of our commitment to provide a healthy and safe learning environment and workplace, and to support those who experience sexual assault or sexual violence,” said NC President Dan Patterson in a statement earlier this year.
MAESD developed the survey with the help of the Sexual Violence Reporting Advisory Committee in 2015. The committee included Ontario universities and colleges, the Canadian Federation of Students, violence against women researchers and the Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women.
Survey asked about students’ understanding of sexual consent and support services available on campus. The survey also assessed universities and colleges’ abilities to appropriately respond to reports of sexual violence and how well they inform students about reporting sexual violence.
One question read, “I know how to file a formal report regarding an incident of sexual violence at my college.”
Students were prompted to respond on a scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.”
Another section asked students to recall how many times during the academic year they had experienced sexual violence or been involved in a sexually inappropriate situation.
The survey addressed instances that occurred both off campus as well as occurrences involving fellow students, staff and professors.
As a thank you for completing the survey, students received a five-dollar gift card from their choice of Amazon, Indigo or Starbucks.
Only full-time Ontario university, college and private career college students over the age of 18 were eligible to complete the survey.
Out of 650,000 eligible students in Ontario, 25 per cent completed the survey. Niagara College has yet to receive data on how many NC students completed the survey.
According to the Ministry, research conductors selected February and March to administer the survey because it gave new students enough time to experience their schools’ culture and learn about sexual violence policies.
The Student Voices on Sexual Violence website says that institutions will have the opportunity to “analyze the results to enhance their understanding of student’s perceptions of and experiences with sexual violence.”
MAESD will provide postsecondary institutions their results in summer 2018 and publish province-wide data in the fall.
The Ministry plans to re-issue the survey every three years.