Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy

Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy

Sexual violence as a public health issue

Findings across various studies on sexual violence, across local, national, and global contexts, point to what the World Health Organization describe as a ‘pervasive… global public health problem of epidemic proportions’ (WHO, 2013). Sexual violence prevention efforts can benefit from adopting a public health approach to address its roots causes, namely, understanding sexual and gender-based violence as one of health inequity, where health outcomes are disproportionately adverse for women, especially women with multiple social locations of disadvantage. The social ecological model, as a public health analytic, conceptualizes health as an interplay between individual, interpersonal, community, and social spheres. Under this framing, the SVPRO sought to create a prevention strategy group that seeks to operationalize community-level approaches to prevention, through collaboration across various campus spaces and units. January 2023 marked the official launch of SVPRO’s Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy. The Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy is a group of campus community members, across various campus spaces, working toward sexual violence awareness and prevention at the University of Waterloo.  This group consists of over 50 members, representing campus spaces including: Campus Housing, Athletics and Recreation, Campus Wellness, Finance, School of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Mathematics.

Prevention strategy goals include:

  • Building awareness around the prevalence and root causes of sexual violence.
  • Fostering a consent culture on campus, particularly through consent literacy.
  • Building institutional courage.
  • Address preventing campus sexual violence using a public health science lens.

Some of the initiatives undertaken by prevention strategy members, during its first year in 2023, include a book club, featuring ‘Sexual Citizens’ (Hirsch and Khan, 2020), a landmark study on sex, power, and assault on campus, which presents a tripartite framework to make sense of sexual violence on campus – sexual citizenship, sexual projects, and sexual geographies. A second exercise, drawing on Hirsch and Khan’s ‘sexual geographies’ concept, maps power and inequity on campus through spatial analysis of campus spaces (including administrative spaces, athletic spaces, classrooms and labs, commons and/or lounge areas, food and dining halls, residential or housing spaces, interior foyers or lobbies, libraries, offices, social, and outdoors spaces). A third exercise encourages members to engage in self-directed research, learning, and knowledge mobilization, where they conduct research about sexual violence on campus in Canada by sharing a scholarly journal article, book, report (governmental or non-governmental), news article, editorial, and/or op-ed on sexual violence on campus within the Canadian context. The intention is to create and build a research hub within our community, and generate opportunities for conversation about the issue. The SVPRO is excited to continue to grow its prevention efforts through this group, and is seeking to include other modes of engagement for the group including speaker series sessions, trainings, and infographic development on SVPRO supports and programming that can be distributed to the wider campus community.