The Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development has released a survey to post-secondary institutions to collect data on sexual violence among students.

The survey titled, ‘Student Voices on Sexual Violence’ will be used to provide feedback on sexual violence; sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and sexual exploitation. It asks students to share their thoughts on their institution’s prevention and support services.

The survey asked questions like whether the student ever experienced inappropriate touching or comments.

Yanni Dagonas, issues coordinator and media representative from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, says, “to create a better campus environment, we need to engage students as we develop policies, protocols, and awareness and prevention campaigns that affect them.”

The ministry asks full-time college, university and private career college students who are 18 and older to complete the survey. The survey will be administered for a four-week period from February 2018 to March 2018.

GH360 News also conducted its own informal survey asking a handful of post-secondary students to share their thoughts about sexual violence in Toronto.

The survey was completely anonymous and completed online using Google Forms.

About 70% of the survey’s participants say that sexual violence is a problem in Toronto. When asked why, some students say that they know of many sexual violence victims and have even witnessed it in their own homes.

Some even added that they see people harassing others openly on the streets.

Deb Singh, media representative from the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, says “in Canada, the groups of people facing the majority of sexual violence are Indigenous woman after that is black woman and then … younger woman from 18 to 25.”

The GH360 News survey revealed that 44 per cent of students do not feel safe on campus and about 50% say that their school and municipal government are not doing enough to prevent sexual violence or help victims.

Singh says that many sexual violence cases go unreported because, “it is less likely you’ll be believed if you are an Indigenous woman, black woman or younger woman because you have less power in the world.”

Dagonas agrees, “there is persistent underreporting of sexual violence, despite the fact that one in five women who go to university in our province will be sexually assaulted while completing her degree.”

Singh says that rates of sexual assault have remained stagnant over the last 20 years, but the legal process is flawed. “At the same time we do not have an increase in people disclosing it to the police or getting positive results in the legal system,” she says.

On March 8, 2016, the government amended the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Private Career Colleges Act to require institutions to have sexual violence policies and report on their effectiveness to the ministry.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development has also introduced, ‘It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment.’ The plan requires, “all colleges, universities, and private career colleges to implement stand-alone policies to address sexual violence,” says Dagonas.

The first step of the It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment was for all universities and colleges to adopt policies surrounding sexual violence. This was completed in Jan. 2017. The survey is the next step in the project.

The Director of Student Access, Wellness and Development at Humber College, Meg Houghton, says that the survey is used to determine the output of services for students.

“We take this opportunity to gather anonymous information from students to try to get a broader sense of how well we are eliminating sexual violence from our campus and so that we can understand how we can target our education and prevention methods,” says Houghton.

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey was developed through consultations with a panel consisting of student groups, private career colleges, colleges and universities.

Houghton was a part of the expert panel for over a year and says the survey, “will be enormously helpful in helping us understand the climate around sexual violence on our campus.”

The survey intends to fulfill the government’s policy surrounding the new sexual violence plan and will be conducted once every three years, giving institutions time to amend their policies.

Ontario’s overall results and a breakdown of results by institution will be released online in Summer 2018.