24 August 2016

- Report by Bailey Gerrits, 2015 Trudeau scholar

On 10-11 August 2016, over 250 students, on- and off-campus anti-violence service providers, post-secondary administrators, researchers, and policymakers attended Ontario Universities Taking Action Against Sexual Violence Conference (OUTA) to hear from 18 speakers on ways to prevent sexual violence.

The volunteer organizing committee started planning in the belief that the best measures to prevent sexual violence centre anti-oppressive, survivor-oriented, and institutional approaches. The committee also believed that sexual violence is not inevitable among students and staff. Rather, universities have the capacity – and the responsibility – to reduce sexual violence.

To showcase institutional models of prevention, participants heard from a panel and a keynote on such topics as ways to incorporate anti-oppressive practices into planning; funding and staff models; finding intra- and extra-institutional partners; and meaningfully engaging students and people who have experienced sexual violence.

The speakers also discussed innovative programs. While the programs themselves were diverse, the speakers agreed that sexual violence prevention needs to be ongoing, multifaceted, contextually relevant, evaluated, and redesigned as needed. It was clear that one-off or online consent sessions or isolated, reactionary women’s self-defense classes are insufficient.

The speakers also offered practical insights into building partnerships and meaningfully engaging communities impacted by sexual violence. Discussions of colonialism and racial politics led to the resounding conclusion that sexual violence prevention needs to happen outside the ivy-covered walls because universities alone cannot remedy histories of oppression. Presenters also suggested that post-secondary sexual violence prevention efforts must intentionally incorporate anti-oppressive approaches and learn from diverse stakeholders.

To find out more about the conference and the speakers, visit the conference website  and consult the post-conference materials.

This conference was supported by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and over 30 other donors from Queen’s University, the Kingston area, and the external community.

The volunteer steering committee was composed of Yasmine Djerbal, 2015 Trudeau scholar Bailey Gerrits, Stacey Kiefer, Samantha King, Joyce Li, and Roxanne Runyon.

Bailey Gerrits

Bailey Gerrits (political studies, Queen’s University) is examining media coverage of domestic violence and the way that Canadian media seem to portray this phenomenon as “un-Canadian.”

2015 Scholars