U of T releases sexual violence education and prevention tool online

The University of Toronto (U of T) has launched an online sexual violence education and prevention training module for students, faculty and staff, according to a news release.

The training tool is part of the university’s “commitment that all of its community members should be able to study, work and live in a campus environment that is free from sexual violence.”

According to the Varsity, the U of T’s student paper, the module consists of a 40-minute video.

The  video includes definitions of sexual violence, information on how to respond to someone who has disclosed an incident of sexual violence, as well as the types of support that the university offers. The module is only accessible to U of T students.

While the training is not compulsory for students or faculty to complete, the university “strongly recommends” all members to complete it, according to the release.

The Charlatan attempted to contact the university for comment, but was told they only respond to media requests from their own student newspaper.

Terry McQuaid, the executive director of personal safety, high risk and sexual violence prevention and support at the U of T, said in the release that it’s important that everyone completes the training, to create a culture of consent and to ensure that people are supported in a consistent manner when they come forward.

“This new training module is the next step in making sure all members of our community understand how they can give or receive support, the role of the centre, and the range of supports available to them,” she said.

The program is based off principles written by the Expert Panel on the Education and Prevention of Sexual Violence, chaired by professor Gretchen Kerr, according to the university website.

The Expert Panel will work to provide their input on the content of the program, and further guide the implementation of the training initiative.

Leon Tsai, a first-year women and gender studies student and staff member at the Centre for Women and Trans People at the U of T, said that personally she would consider completing the module “especially because some students may feel more comfortable opening up to other fellow peers.”

Although she said she believes the training is helpful towards staff and students, Tsai said she thinks the training should take place in person because of the delicate topic of sexual violence that may be “triggering” to some.

“Consent is a topic that seems easy to grasp but very complicated as well,” Tsai said.

But, the module has met with criticism from Chimwemwe Alao, vice-president (equity) at the U of T Students’ Union.

She told the Varsity, “without the training being mandated or incentivized, students will have to seek it out of their own personal interest.”

“And chances are that those who are seeking it out will be the ones already well versed in sexual violence initiatives and the policy,” she added.

Photo by Aaron Hemens