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U of T announces centre for sexual violence support and education

The University of Toronto is creating a new centre for Sexual Violence Support and Education to serve all three campuses, part of a series of measures to improve safety and co-ordinate services.

Plans for the tri-campus centre are included in a new report released Tuesday by University President Meric Gertler and Provost Cheryl Regehr that accepts all five of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence. 

Read the report here

“It is important that our campuses are a place where individuals feel safe and where those who are affected by sexual violence receive support,” Gertler said.

The university fully endorses the principles in the committee report, Regehr said. “Safety is a huge priority for the University,” she said. “We commit to implementing these measures in the coming months guided by experts and with input from members of our community.” 

As part of that, Regehr said the university is moving to hire a new Executive Director, Sexual Violence Support, Safety and High Risk Services, who will oversee sexual violence prevention and response initiatives, and take the lead on community safety and high-risk matters. 

The new centre is expected to have a physical presence on all three campuses by the beginning of next year. Exactly what looks like will be determined through consultation, Regehr said.
The new leadership post and centre will better integrate and co-ordinate services across all three campuses, the report says. For example, the centre will be responsible for support services for those affected by sexual violence and for training those who take disclosures and share after-hours on-call services.

The U of T Sexual Harassment Office will be incorporated into the new centre, which also will work with community partners. 

In response to the committee’s recommendations, the university also will create a new stand-alone policy on sexual violence. This work will be led by law professor and Trinity College Provost Mayo Moran. Prof. Moran will chair an expert panel, which will provide advice on a new draft policy and review existing practice. This small group of experts will consult and offer advice in two areas:  the reporting process for sexual violence cases and the investigation, resolution and adjudication process for these cases.

As recommended by the committee, the new center will not be responsible for the investigation and adjudication process.  The report found the division of responsibilities is important to ensure support for those affected by sexual violence while protecting due process, integrity and fairness. 

New provincial law requires that the new policy be in place by January 2017.  That means it will go before U of T’s Governing Council this fall.

The university also is taking the following steps as part of its commitment to implement all of the committee’s recommendations:

  • Developing clear, concise information about supports and services available to members of the university community.
  • Co-ordinating and updating education and training programs for all members of the community. Professor Gretchen Kerr, acting Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, will lead an expert panel on this initiative
  • Developing a tri-campus Sexual Violence Climate Survey to create common measures for institutional data collection. In doing this the university will take its lead from new legislation from the Ontario government and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.