Canada

University of Toronto revamps counselling service for sexual assault cases

The University of Toronto has implemented a new mental health and counselling service to better serve students, including those who have been sexually assaulted, its vice-president for student life says.

Changes follow CBC News investigation in February

The University of Toronto has revamped its mental health counselling and sexual assault services in the wake of reports from earlier this year. (CBC)

The University of Toronto has implemented a new mental health and counselling service to better serve students, including those who have been sexually assaulted, its vice-president for student life says.

The changes follow a CBC News Investigation in February in which a student said the school failed to help her, both emotionally and academically, after she reported a sexual assault by a classmate.

The student, who CBC agreed not to identify, said that she was sexually assaulted after consuming a drink she believes may have been spiked with a drug.

She says the incident left her feeling depressed and unable to attend classes, and that a month after she decided to seek help from the U of T's counselling and psychological services.

There she says she was told "if you don't show up to class, then he wins. They made it sound like there was nothing I could do but shut up, deal with it and go to class."

She said she was left feeling "totally isolated, alone. And they just totally let me down and set me far, far back from where I feel like I could be today."  

In September, just before the start of the new school year, the student met with representatives at the university's Health and Wellness Centre, and was told that "the CBC story led to a lot of changes."

She was told that included now having a more comprehensive plan for dealing with rape and sexual assault on campus and the school would "be updating their entire system."

Lucy Fromowitz, U of T's assistant vice-president of student life confirmed to CBC News that following a two-year examination of the school's mental health framework, which included feedback from students and best clinical practices, administrators have combined the health services and counselling and psychological services into a single entry point for students.

The university's updated website describes it as a way to "provide a clear pathway to individualized care."

Over the summer, officials also added more training to their health and wellness team to try to ensure everyone would be aware and prepared to assist with academic accommodations as individual cases arose.

"We recognize that it was important for us to train all of our health and wellness staff, that includes our front reception people, our embedded counsellors and our doctors," Fromowitz said, adding that included the crisis and academic support teams. 

The student who originally brought this to light continues to study at U of T, and told CBC that "overall, I was very pleased with what she had to say," referring to the representative from counselling services.

"The difference in how I was treated and talked to was like night and day from my prior meetings."


We want to hear your stories. If you have any information you wish to share on this topic, contact lori.ward@cbc.ca

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