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2016 Campus Safety Survey: Students' Perceptions and Experiences with Sexual and Gendered Violence

Content Advisory: This article contains descriptions of various types of sexual assault.

Summary Report

In March and April of 2016, all Laurier students were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey on gendered violence. The survey was conducted by the Research and Assessment Working Group of Laurier’s Gendered Violence Task Force.

The survey asked about gendered and sexual violence, including students’ perceptions, experiences, and attitudes. Questions about student experiences of violence covered approximately eight months (September 2015 – March or April 2016). The survey was developed by the Educational Advisory Board, an organization supporting the use of best practices in student services and institutional management by universities and colleges.

The survey sample consists of 2,899 students from Laurier’s Waterloo/Kitchener and Brantford campuses. The majority of respondents were undergraduate students (91%) and female (73%). The sample included a diversity of students who self-identified as students of colour (29%), Aboriginal ancestry (4%), LGBQ+ (11%), trans/genderqueer (1%), physical disability/long-term physical health condition (7%), and mental disability/mental health condition (21%).


Perceptions of Campus Climate

The vast majority of students indicated feeling safe at school (91%), and perceived faculty (84%) and administrators (74%) as being genuinely concerned for their welfare. Nearly 90% of students indicated that they believed the school would take a report of sexual violence seriously.

Sexual Violence Prevention Training

Nine-hundred and fifty respondents (37%) indicated that they had received information or training related to sexual violence at Laurier since the start of the 2015/16 school year. Of the 823 students who indicated they had participated in bystander intervention training (how to identify and intervene in situations that could lead to sexual violence), 75% reported finding it useful or very useful in increasing their knowledge.

Knowledge of Resources

The majority of respondents (57%) indicated that they knew where to find help if they or a friend experienced sexual violence. Fifty-four percent indicated that they knew what confidential resources are available in such situations.

Experiences of Sexist Behaviours

Students were asked about personally experiencing or witnessing various forms of sexist behaviours on campus since September 2015. Responses indicate that sexist remarks or jokes are most prevalent (58%), followed by inappropriate comments about one’s or someone else’s body or appearance (57%), and crude sexual comments (27%). Nearly 20% of students indicated they received offensive sexual jokes, stories or pictures via email, text, or social media.

Experiences of Sexual Violence

The survey asked about personal experiences of sexual violence since September 2015. In response to an initial question about experiencing unwanted sexual contact, which ranged from inappropriate touching, attempted penetration, to penetration, 323 students (11%) selected “yes;” 349 students (12%) chose to not answer this question.

Among the 323 students who reported that they had experienced sexual violence, 81% of these students indicated that they experienced unwanted kissing/touching or removal of clothing, 34% indicated that someone attempted to sexually penetrate them, 24% indicated experiencing unwanted sexual penetration, 27% indicated that someone tried to perform oral sex on them or make them perform oral sex, and 22% indicated experiencing receiving or being made to perform oral.

Analysis shows that, compared to their peers, disproportionately higher rates for each of these incidents were found among females, LGBQ+ students, and students with a self-identified mental disability/long-term mental health condition. Also, students self-identifying as having a physical disability/long-term physical health condition were more likely to report experiencing unwanted kissing/touching or removal of clothing than their peers.  

Service Use, Disclosure, and Reporting. In terms of services, among students who experienced sexual violence, some sought counselling through campus services (11%), medical services on campus (11%), and counselling services in the local community (Brantford 5%, Waterloo/Kitchener 3%).  

Among the 323 students who experienced sexual violence, 300 commented further about the most serious incident to them. Many indicated that they disclosed the incident to friends or peers (66%), romantic partners (19%), and/or family members (11%), while 26% told no one. Only 7 students (2%) indicated they had formally reported the incident through the then-existing university procedures.

Harassment and Stalking

The survey asked about various forms of harassment and stalking; 2,370 students answered these questions, with 34% indicating that they had experienced harassment or stalking behaviours. The most common behaviours reported by students were unwanted phone calls (12%), repeatedly being asked to go on dates (12%), and unwanted e-mails or other written communication (7%).

Disclosure & Reporting. Of those who experienced these behaviours, the majority (88%) indicated they told someone about the incident, most commonly a roommate, friend, or classmate (71%). Seven students used the school’s then-existing formal procedures to report the incident.

Intimate Partner Violence

Among the 1,515 students who reported being in a casual, steady or serious dating relationship, 6% indicated that they experienced some form of physical intimate partner violence. Few of these students sought help, although 13 students indicated they were injured.

Bystander Behaviours and Intentions

Questions were asked about bystander behaviours in terms of intervening in situations of sexual violence. Of the 2,424 students who answered these questions, 16% indicated that since the beginning of the school year, they had observed a situation that was, or they believed could have led to sexual violence. Among these bystanders, reported responses included: asking the person at risk if they needed help (57%), trying to diffuse the situation by stepping in (30%), asking others to do so (21%), and creating a distraction from the situation (24%).

Core Recommendations

Education, Training, and Awareness

  • Create a comprehensive training plan to reach more students, including information on the new gendered and sexual violence policies and procedures, and the role of recently hired Sexual Assault Support Advocate. Training needs to occur beyond new student orientation and volunteer trainings. 
  • Develop a campus-wide awareness program about the range of confidential resources available to students.
  • Ensure educational content and awareness messages address:
    • the continuum of violence, ranging from subtle discrimination (e.g., sexist jokes and comments) to sexual assault and other forms of blatant violence;
    • the difference between disclosure (seeking personal support) and reporting (making a formal complaint that may lead to action against the perpetrator).
  • Leverage students’ motivation to confront gendered and sexual violence, and work to further promote a culture of zero tolerance for sexism by encouraging peer-to-peer accountability and pro-social bystander intervention.

Supports and Services

  • Identify and describe the role of specific on- and off-campus supports for students who are most likely to experience violence including: female students, LGBQ+ students, and students with physical disabilities and mental disabilities/mental conditions. Further, build relationships with community-based service providers for these populations to ensure coordinated and competent support.
  • Ensure on- and off-campus support services and resources are accessible to persons with disabilities. If a service or resource is inaccessible, work with students with disabilities, the Accessible Learning Centre and/or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Officer to provide recommendations to increase access.
  • Assess the preparedness of on campus support services to respond to harassment and stalking, and intimate partner violence.
  • Research, create and/or disseminate resources on supporting students who have experienced secondary trauma as bystanders.