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Working with both the Trent Community Research Centre (TCRC) and Arthur Newspaper has been a rewarding experience thus far. This academic year is the first year that Arthur has teamed up with the TCRC for a student-led community based research project. The purpose of this partnership is to allow students to bring forward research projects that will be published in multiple different ways. These projects are occurring not only within the Trent University community, but also in the Peterborough-Nogojiwanong communities as well. The original title of the project was “More Than Consent and Conviction: Can Forensic Science Help Prevent Assaults?” While this can lead to great research opportunities and findings, it is rather difficult to be an undergrad student trying to research such a sensitive topic. This is one of the main reasons why my scope of focus has shifted. Instead of researching sexual violence on Trent University Symons campus, I am now looking at the policies and procedures regarding sexual violence on campus.
Studies have shown that one in three women, and one in six men will experience sexual violence in their life. These are statistics that include individuals of all ages, but it has been shown that women in their first or second years in post-secondary are at an even higher risk of experiencing sexual violence. This is better known as the “red zone” by experts. It is because of statistics like this that provincial governments have implemented bills regarding sexual violence prevention on post-secondary institution campuses. In Ontario, we have Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2016, which outlines that sexual violence policies are required at all post-secondary institutions that receive any government funding. There are multiple conditions to Bill 132; the policy must outline the steps required from administration when a report has been made, as well as annual reporting by the schools. There is one more condition which states that students need to be included in the creation and revisions of the policy. This ensures that students like you have a say in how you will be protected on campus. Quebec has Bill 151, which was implemented in 2019, and outlines similar requirements as Ontario’s Bill 132.
Although having these policies in place is great, this is just a starting point. More needs to be done to ensure that students are educated and safe on campus. This is where individuals such as Robyn Ocean, Trent’s Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator, comes into play. By developing programs such as Consent at Trent, Trent’s version of a consent education lecture, we are informing first year students of the importance of consent in both sexual and non-sexual interactions with others. But while this is a great resource, it is hard to monitor student attendance.
While Trent does have resources in place, what I am trying to look for is if students are actually aware of them. I have gone through almost four years at this school, with only the one-hour consent education lecture during my first week on campus to keep me informed of sexual violence on campus. There has to be more done in order to keep students educated and safe during their time at school. I am not saying that my research will find all the answers; that is not my goal. My goal is to first see if students have the knowledge about our schools policies, and from there to come to conclusions on how policies need to be discussed, so that students are aware and knowledgeable.