Windsor

Sexual assault disclosures rising at University of Windsor

The number of people coming forward to report a sexual assault at the University of Windsor continues to rise, up more than 300 per cent in the last school year compared to 2016-17.
Dusty Johnstone, coordinator of the Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention Office at the University of Windsor. (Katerina Georgieva)

The number of people coming forward to report a sexual assault at the University of Windsor continues to rise, up more than 300 per cent in the 2018-19 school year compared to 2016-17.

The startling increases don't necessarily mean that more sexual assaults — from unwanted touching to rape — are happening. The school's Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention Office interprets the jump as "a positive thing."

"What I think this reflects is our community is becoming aware of the resources that are available to them," said coordinator Dusty Johnstone.

"I certainly don't think that we should misinterpret this that there is more violence happening in our community."

People working a booth on campus last fall handed out buttons promoting the Bystander Initiative. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Between May 2018 and April, 70 sexual assault cases were opened at the University of Windsor, the board of governors heard Tuesday. Most of those reports resulted in disclosure so people could access resources and emotional support.

Formal complaints were filed in 11 of those cases, which resulted in individual investigations.

Comparing those numbers in 2018-19 to the first year of the university's Sexual Misconduct Policy in 2016-17, which handled 17 sexual assault cases, there is a difference of 311 per cent.

"I think that we see this as an issue we need to continue to invest in," said Johnstone. "I think one great thing about the University of Windsor is that it's very responsive to the fact that this is a social problem ... and I don't really see that tapering off."

Here are some more statistics based on the 70 most recent sexual assault cases reported at the University of Windsor:

  • 27 involved incidents of sexual assault or rape.
  • Six incidents of childhood violence.
  • Perpetrator was faculty or staff in five disclosed cases.
  • Six incidents reported to Windsor police.

Shifting resources

To help with this increase reported sexual assaults, the university hired someone to oversee public education on campus for 10 hours a week last fall.

Next month, that job will become a permanent position at 24 hours per week.

Up until now, interim president Douglas Kneale said the university has been putting resources into the back end when it comes to sexual assault resources.

Now, things are changing.

"What we're doing is shifting our resources to the front end to educate, to make people aware, to de-stigmatize, to allow people to feel comfortable in coming forward to talk about these issues," said Kneale.

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