This article is from WLUFA Advocate 4.2 October 2015.
Kari Brozowski, Community Health
Sexual violence is not about sex; it is about a perpetrator exerting power over someone they perceive to be weaker. We know from studies of gendered violence that those who appear to be more vulnerable are seen as “easy” targets by a perpetrator. Women, people with disabilities, aboriginal women, women of colour, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are more likely to experience sexual violence. And, as a 2010 study by Brozowski and Hall establishes, the incidence of sexual violence against elder (65 and older) men and women who appear to be more vulnerable is also higher than the average.
Gendered sexual violence is a longstanding problem on university campuses across Canada—one that has only recently gained media attention. That attention along with campus activism has compelled university administrations to address the issue more effectively. At Laurier, students, staff, faculty and community groups came together last year to form the Gendered Violence Taskforce. The taskforce is working to recommend policies and protocols that provide greater supports and accessibility to all campus community members in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to feel safe and secure. These policies, says taskforce Chair Lynn Kane, address any type of gender-based violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying.
Although there are some harassment and discrimination policies in the WLUFA collective agreements and the student code of conduct, it is not clear that these policies apply to everyone. As such, the taskforce is advising the university on what policies and protocols need to be implemented to address the gaps that currently exist. Taskforce members will also be meeting with WLUFA representatives in November to brainstorm how the Association can better address gendered violence as a workplace issue.
The taskforce’s mandate further includes establishing or formalizing university-wide support services for people who have experienced gendered violence, and ensuring the university complies with relevant federal and provincial legislation and mandates. Its goal is not to help the university better manage incidents of gendered violence, but to eliminate them.
Kari Brozowski and David R. Hall, (2010), Aging and Risk: Physical and Sexual Abuse of Elders in Canada, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25(7), 1183–1199. Please see summaries of other Laurier research on this topic featured on page 2.