How to help shape Brock’s sexual violence and harassment policy

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The first week back to campus after winter break has been contentious and at times overwhelming with the return of professor David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye to campus after an investigation into allegations of sexual assault found him more likely than not to be in breach of Brock’s policy. The professor’s controversial return has brought to light the triennial review of Brock’s sexual violence and harassment policy, known as SAHP.

As per clause 8.5 of SAHP, “the University will review this Policy within one year of the first effective date and at least every three years after that.”

The policy is under review and, as ever, the department of HRE (Human Rights and Equity) is offering open consultation. This consultation is meant to not only inform students, faculty and the greater Brock community about the policy, but also to offer the opportunity for feedback.

It should be noted that feedback is accepted year-round on the website, currently accessible through brocku.ca/human-rights or by contacting the Sexual Violence Coordinator Larisa Fry directly in her office: Mackenzie Chown E Block — room 215.

The open consultations will be held in Plaza 600, the first of which will take place Jan. 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

As noted, the open consultations allow for more efficacy, transparency and community involvement in the policy making process. As one of the dominating discussions on campus lately, new points regarding important changes have been brought to light. The department of HRE encourages the Brock community to include themselves in this participatory process to provide the opportunity to form the policy moving forward.

Further, the HRE has put forward additional groundwork initiatives to address sexual violence. Three initiatives have been proposed, and groups are actively working to relay them. The initiatives include: Active Bystander Program, Peer Support Group and a survivor support group entitled Finding Calm in the Storm.

The Active Bystander Program has been proposed to be a campus wide initiative to engage and activate participants’ awareness of bias, actions and thinking with the goal to equip attendees with the skills necessary and empower them to safely and appropriately address situations as a third party. All matters in this case refers to harassment and/or discrimination based on any of the 16 prohibited grounds of discrimination noted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other significant areas of discrimination Brock condemns: race, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, ancestry, creed, sex, gender identification, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, receipt of public assistance (in housing), record of offences (in employment) and disability. This training and programming on campus will be focusing on the first stage of intervention. Issues such as toxic masculinity and the perpetuation of rape culture, are the kindling to sexual violence but are not often seen as issues to address, despite their correlation with escalated violence.

The Peer Support Group is a student-staffed peer support system for sexual violence. This practice is seen across many Ontario universities and Brock aims to follow suit. With staff guidance and support, HRE hopes to see a network of individuals with specialized training in the field of sexual violence so that they may provide optimal training on a peer-to-peer basis on topics including: bystander training, consent education and responding to disclosures of sexual violence.

Finally, Finding Calm in the Storm will be officially put into practice on Feb. 6. This art-based support group will be eight weeks and consist of two hour closed sessions based around self care, regulation and support through artistic expression and psychoeducation. The support group will include work with a variety of local artists.

If students feel as though they are well suited to either of the proposed groups or they are simply interested in learning more about the proposed plans, they are encouraged to contact HRE directly.

There are numerous upcoming opportunities for community members to create a safer campus and support victims of sexual violence. These opportunities help to ensure members of the community not only feel safe coming forward about their experience with sexual violence, but also feeling safe once they have done so. Most importantly, we must continue taking preventative measures to these issues. If you have concerns with the current politics surrounding sexual violence or suggestions for the policy, attend the open consultations and voice your opinion.

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