The fight against sexual violence in institutions of higher education reflects a determination to ensure healthy and respectful study and work environments for all Quebecers. In addition to satisfying a social imperative, it must foster a change of culture in these institutions.
In 2016-2017, MEES held consultations with all higher education stakeholders. More than 75 briefs were submitted, and nearly 400 people participated in five days of discussions on how to prevent and counter sexual violence on college and university campuses in Québec.
These consultations helped identify various measures aimed at fighting sexual violence (such as prevention policies, better physical security measures on campuses, and effective complaints management mechanisms). MEES also studied research papers on the subject.
This intervention strategy reflects a strong commitment to address this issue. It is consistent with the Québec government’s 2016-2021 strategy to prevent and counter sexual violence, and is unique in that it takes into account all students and staff in institutions of higher education. It also makes provisions for the special needs of students with disabilities, members of cultural and Indigenous communities, and sexual and gender minorities.
Intervention on the part of MEES and initiatives by institutions of higher education can be divided into the following broad areas:
- Awareness, prevention and knowledge development
- Handling of disclosures and complaints
- Personal safety
This intervention strategy is based on collaboration with all stakeholders and proposes a rigorous framework, including eventual legislation to ensure proper implementation.
Action can take many forms, from legislative intervention to financial support for educational institutions. However, before we do anything we must learn more about the nature and scope of the problem within the student population of each institution. Once we have a full picture of the situation, the choice of tools and actions will become clearer.