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Oshawa campuses ahead of the game

City's post-secondary institutions enact sexual assault policies ahead of legislation making them mandatory

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The province has taken another step toward combatting sexual assault and sexual violence at post-secondary institutions – and for Oshawa’s campuses, it’s a familiar move.

Recently, Queens Park passed Bill 132, Ontario’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan which, among other changes to its It’s Never Okay plan launched in March 2015, requires all postsecondary institutions to develop student-specific policies on sexual assault and sexual violence.

For Durham College, the news comes more than a year after the implementation of its policy and procedures for sexual assault and sexual violence.

At UOIT, spokesperson Brian Oliver points to a “wealth of current information” on the institution’s website, which includes tools for identifying and dealing with sexual assault or violence and also how to deal with incidents and where to turn to for help.

While the university’s website labels the policy as a “work in progress,” the website states UOIT is currently undergoing a “full review of our policies and procedures relating to sexual violence.”

At Trent, its Sexual Violence, Prevention and Response policy was enacted in Janaury.

Meri-Kim Oliver, the vice-president of student affairs at Durham College, says the policy has resulted in a dramatic increase of awareness on campus over the course of its first year in use.

With one-on-one training sessions, as well as small group sessions with more than 800 employees and student groups, including student executives and leaders, Oliver says word has spread.

“We’re confident that if we’ve achieved nothing else, we’ve got a population that is understanding what sexual violence is,” Oliver says. “Every bit that we are able to enhance people’s understanding of it, and hopefully also change behaviours, is also a good thing.”

Over the past year, Durham College has seen no formal reports of sexual assault or sexual violence.

Eight non-formal reports have been received, which Oliver says are students looking for information and perhaps want the institution to be aware of their situation.

As part of the policy, a full review is done after the first year, which Oliver says is currently taking place. The passing of Bill 132 may also result in some changes.

“We’re looking at those and any adjustments we need to make to be sure our policy fits in with the new legislation,” she says.

Along with changes and requirements for post-secondary institutions, Bill 132 also adds increased measures for education and policy awareness in the workplace.