CampUS, a two-year initiative and the result of a collaboration between Interim Place and UTM, began in March 2012 with the goal of making the campus a safer place for female students. UTM’s Campus Police, the Health and Counselling Centre, and the Women’s Centre, as well as Peel Police and community agencies gathered information from female students on campus. They found that 16% of those surveyed had experienced gender-based violence at UTM, and that 40% had experienced violence off campus.
CampUS also released statistics on female students at other universities, including that “between 15 and 25% of young female adults will experience some sort of sexual assault during their academic career, and four out of five female undergrads surveyed have been victims of violence in a dating relationship”.
In the second year of the project, CampUS is focusing on the top four priorities of their community safety plan.
Priority one is to teach students to prevent and reduce violence against young women. CampUS plans on collaborating with several UTM services to train male and female students in these strategies. These students will go on to coordinate campus activities to prevent and reduce violence against women.
The second priority is to plan for young women’s physical safety needs on campus. The physical improvements set to be made at UTM might include improvements to lighting, walkways, better access to the emergency phones, and special consideration for safety features in the RAWC and the North Building.
Third, CampUS plans to work on the Campus Police reporting process when dealing with violence against women. The Women’s Centre and Campus Police will work on improving the process of receiving and answering calls from female students who have been exposed to or have been victims of violence on campus.
Lastly, CampUS hopes to develop resources for healing supports for young women. Non-campus service providers will work with UTM service providers to provide counselling centres for young females on and off campus. The support may include a specially trained outreach worker from Interim Place and counselling space at UTM.
Jacqueline Benn-John, the CampUS project manager, says that CampUS was created in response to a call for proposals from Status of Women Canada. Interim Place approached UTM to collaborate on an initiative that could engage the campus community in addressing gender-based violence.
For instance, last December, a 19-year-old woman was sexually assaulted while walking on the Collegeway around 9 p.m. Benn-John says this occurrence is part of the violence that women experience on a daily basis. “The statistics demonstrate the need for on- and off-campus engagements like preventative education, policy process enhancements, and crisis and counselling support services,” she adds.
According to Benn-John, Status of Women Canada has funded 21 campus safety projects across Canada. “UTSC has a campus safety project funded by Status of Women Canada. The Scarborough Women’s Centre and UTSC have collaborated to deliver this campus safety project entitled Build.Act.Change,” she says. “Interim Place has a long history working with boards of education in the Peel Region and Sheridan College.” Build.Act.Change is a joint initiative between UTSC and the Scarborough Women’s Centre and aims to prevent violence against women on campus.
With four priorities to focus on in their second year, CampUS will continue to work in collaboration with UTM to expand the CampUS project in hopes of raising awareness of violence against women, and creating counselling centres on and off campus.