Prevention and Response to Sexual Violence

Where can a survivor of sexual assault get confidential support? SASSL (Sexual Assault Survivors' Support Line & Leadership). B449 Student Centre. 416-650-8056 (24/7)

Message from Gary Brewer, Vice-President Finance & Administration and Rhonda Lenton, Vice-President Academic & Provost


To all members of the York Community,

We are writing to provide the York Community with an Interim Guideline for Responding to Sexual Violence.

The Guideline outlines for students, faculty, and staff existing practices and services to address sexual violence and to introduce new measures based on consultations with the community.  This is an important step towards the development and implementation of York’s new Sexual Violence Policy, in accordance with the Province’s new Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act.  This new policy, which more broadly addresses the continuum  of sexual violence,  will replace York’s Sexual Assault Awareness, Education and Response Policy which was approved by the Board of Governors in February 2015.

An important measure in the Guideline is a change in reporting requirements for sexual assaults.   Notifying police services will now only occur with the consent of the survivor, unless there is an imminent safety risk to the community.

As part of the Guideline, the University has established a Sexual Violence Response Office to coordinate support for all members of our community who have experienced sexual violence.   This new office will be managed and supported during the interim period by the Office for Student Community Relations (OSCR), while we complete final arrangements in consultation with the community.   Additional staff to support York’s commitments will be hired in the coming months.

All survivors of sexual violence are encouraged to contact the Sexual Violence Response Office (W128 Bennett Centre for Student Services, 416-736-5211, to discuss the range of options available to them.  The phone number will be staffed on a 24/7 basis.

During the fall, the Sexual Violence Policy Working Group will continue its work and will increase its consultations with constituent groups across the community:

  • October to November – Community consultations with a wide range of student, staff, and faculty groups or associations, smaller group discussions with survivors, as well as town hall meetings
  • Late November to December – Consolidating community input and revising the draft Sexual Violence Policy
  • Mid to Late December 2016 – Submission to the Board of Governors for approval
  • January – February – Training available to the community

This Interim Guideline is an important step forward to help how we, as a community, understand the issue of sexual violence and can respond to survivors in a supportive and meaningful way.

York University Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response

Statement from Rhonda Lenton, Vice-President Academic & Provost

Statement from Rhonda Lenton, Vice-President Academic & Provost

York University has a long standing commitment to providing a safe campus. Much of our focus over the past number of years has been on the development of programs to help educate and train our community about safety-related issues that affect York and society at large. We have also worked to maintain effective services to protect the safety of our community members and ensure support services are provided to survivors in a timely and accessible manner. A key focus to overall safety at York continues to be addressing the issue of sexual assault.

Information about programs, services, resources and support relating to the prevention and response to sexual assault are easily accessible on a dedicated York website, as well as from our homepage under the ‘Community’ section. As part of our overarching strategy to address this systemic issue York has developed a Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response Policy.

We are pleased to announce that on February 23, 2015, the Board of Governors of York University approved of the Policy on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response.

We are strongly committed to continuing our efforts to work together to prevent and respond to sexual assault and support survivors.


Rhonda Lenton
Vice-President Academic & Provost


Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response Policy

Legislative History: Legislative History: Reviewed by President and Vice-Presidents, 28 January, 2015. Approved by Board Executive Committee 13 February, 2015. Approved by the Board of Governors, 23 February, 2015. Effective 23 February, 2015.

Approval Authority: Board of Governors

Signature: Julia Foster

I. Preamble

Sexual assault is a serious and systemic issue that impacts the individual, community, and society in general. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that violates the sexual integrity, personal boundaries, trust and feelings of safety of the individual and can have significant long lasting physical, emotional, and psychological impacts on a survivor. Anyone can experience sexual assault. However, individuals may encounter increased vulnerabilities based on their identity or perceived identity including such factors as race, economic status, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, language, physical or mental ability, and/or immigration status. Every survivor reacts differently to their experience. Survivors experience many barriers to disclosing, reporting, and/or seeking support; barriers can differ based on the lived experience of the survivor.

York University affirms its ongoing commitment to foster a culture where sexual assault and its impact are understood, survivors are supported, and those who commit incidents of sexual assault are held accountable.

The policy conveys the University’s commitment to raising awareness about sexual assault, its desire to reduce the number of incidents at the University, and supporting those who have been impacted by sexual assault. The University will provide a framework for a cohesive approach to education, awareness, and prevention in order to effectively foster community engagement to enable community members to recognize, to respond to, and to help prevent sexual assault on campus.

II. Policy

  1. York University recognizes that universities can play a significant role in addressing sexual assault, supporting survivors, and raising public awareness about this societal harm. York University is committed to providing and maintaining an environment in which sexual assault is recognized to be unacceptable and is not tolerated. The University commits to addressing reported incidents of sexual assault and responding appropriately. Survivors will be supported and individuals who are members of the York community, who have been found to have committed sexual assault, will be held accountable through due process.
  2. York University will ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to respond to incidents of sexual assault. The University will provide support for members of the University community who have experienced sexual assault or been impacted by it, regardless of where such incidents occur. The University shall strive to foster a culture of care and understanding for survivors and to reduce barriers to disclosure and/or to reporting.
  3. Any member of the York community who is found to have committed sexual assault shall be held accountable. Allegations of sexual assault will be dealt with through the University complaint procedures and those who have been found to have committed sexual assault shall be subject to related sanctions and discipline up to and including expulsion and/or termination where appropriate.
  4. York University is committed to on-going education, awareness, and prevention initiatives about sexual assault, including consent and related subjects. The University will support these initiatives through dedicated staff, programming, and related University committees. The University will ensure that these initiatives are broadly communicated to the University community.

III. Scope

This policy applies to all members of the York University community, including but not limited to students, staff, faculty, administrators, and volunteers. It applies regardless of where an incident takes place. The policy should be read in conjunction with other York University policies and procedures which address sexual assault (see Related Policies and Procedures) and procedures or guidelines that may be developed pursuant to it. The policy is not intended to supersede or interfere with collective agreements or prevailing laws. It does not preclude individuals from seeking recourse through criminal or civil proceedings.

IV. Definitions


  1. Means active, ongoing, informed, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity;
  2. Cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated, unconscious, or otherwise incapable of consenting; and
  3. Cannot be obtained through threats, coercion, or other forms of control and intimidation.

“Sexual assault” means:

Any sexual contact made by a person towards another where consent is not first obtained. It is characterized by a broad range of sexual acts, carried out in circumstances in which the person has not freely consented to or is incapable of consenting to sexual activity. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it has been interpreted as an actual or threatened advance, gesture, touch, or any other sexual act to which an individual has not consented. It includes a person being forced to perform sexual acts against their will. It is determined by a lack of consent, and not by the act itself.

V. Review

This policy shall be reviewed annually by the Office of the Vice-President Finance and Administration.

VI. Responsibility

The Office of the Vice-President Finance and Administration shall be responsible for establishing procedures to implement this policy.

VII. Related Policies and Procedures
Sexual Harassment Policy
Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities
Occupational Health and Safety Policy
Workplace Violence Policy
Workplace Harassment Policy

VIII. Resources
Resources for Survivors and Community members

Interim Guideline for Responding to Sexual Violence

Active Bystander Program

As part of an integrated strategy to proactively address sexual violence, York is in the process of developing an Active Bystander Program focused on prevention of sexual violence. The program, using a community mobilization approach, will be the ‘bridge’ to engage our community to shift cultural norms.

The program will introduce the concept of the bystander and move into an introduction to sexual violence. A Steering Committee was established in January 2014 and through its Education Committee has developed York-specific program content.

Pilot sessions of the Active Bystander Program were delivered to three key Student Leadership groups this fall including York Orientation Director Association (YODA), Dons, and the Peer Health Education Team. Pilot sessions were also delivered to the Sports Council and the Community Safety Council. Consultations and feedback sessions are currently taking place as part of the program development process.

York’s Ongoing Commitments

METRAC Safety Audit

In June 2010, the University President, Mamdouh Shoukri, received the final report of a campus safety audit which had been carried out by the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC). York was the first major university to undergo such a comprehensive safety audit. The audit, which was two years in development, included over 100 recommendations which were divided into three categories: the Social Environment, Security Services, and the Physical Environment. The University has made a commitment to the implementation of the recommendations. To date, York has completed or significantly advanced over 85% of the recommendations and has provided updates to the community on an ongoing basis.

The METRAC Safety Audit highlighted the importance of a holistic sense of safety and this understanding provided the underpinnings of the development of York’s framework for addressing safety by recognizing that there are various considerations that contribute to our community’s sense of safety.

Education and Awareness Initiatives

York offers a host of activities aimed at educating our students about sexual assault and raising awareness about it and human rights including:

  • You Had Me At Consent (formerly 'Can I Kiss You?) is York University’s annual consent event focusing on first year students. The event began in 2010 (~1500 students) 2011 (~1600 students) 2012 (~1800 students) 2013 (~2850 students) 2014 (~4600).
    • September 2016 | 7000 students attended the consent event during orientation.
  • An annual event recognizing the National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women is organized by the Centre for Human Rights.
  • Annual recognition of Trans Day of Remembrance about violence against members of the LGBTQ community.
  • Centre for Human Rights supports a Men's Team, a group of self-identified men who are dedicated to challenging the spread of gender-based violence through peer-to-peer educational interventions on York U's campuses.
  • Centre for Human Rights supports a Diversity Peer Education Team (DPET) a group of volunteers who regularly table in Vari Hall to raise awareness about the various protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code including Sexual Harassment.
  • Centre for Human Rights partners with and supports various academic and student lead initiatives that raise awareness about human rights issues including some focused on sexual violence.
  • Safer Together, safety awareness campaign highlights safety related resources.
  • YUStart is an online multi-week orientation for incoming students which introduces new students to the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the Respect Equity Diversity Inclusivity (REDI) tutorial, Consent education, and community safety resources.

Training Initiatives

York provides a range of activities aimed at training staff, faculty, orientation leaders and other student groups. Highlights are provided below:

  • 1400 Orientation Leaders were trained this year on York’s Guideline for Responding to Sexual Assaults during Orientation as well as attended a training session of the Active Bystander Program: Addressing Sexual Violence.
  • 70 Residence Dons participated in annual training about sexual violence and how to respond effectively to a disclosure. Topics included:
    • Sexual Assault Myths, how to support a survivor, and how to connect survivors with sexual assault survivor resources.
  • York University provides funding for WenDo (self-defense) workshops coordinated by SASSL throughout the year for self-identified female students.
  • The Respect Equity Diversity Inclusivity (REDI) online tutorial features a module on Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination.
  • Active Bystander Program pilot addressing sexual violence was delivered to approximately 100 student leaders over three sessions covering topics such as: sexual assault, sexual harassment, cyber harassment, stalking, consent, support survivors, and interventions options.
  • Annual 'Inclusivity Training' for Orientation Leaders which includes a component on sexual harassment/assault - from 2008 to last year - participation increased from approximately ~300 in 2008 to 1400 in 2016.
  • Annual training for Security Services and goSAFE staff on Sexual Harassment prevention which includes the continuum of sexual violence from harassment to assault.
  • Understanding Sexual Harassment/Violence workshops which includes the continuum of sexual violence and is offered to all students, staff and faculty by request.
  • Respect & Inclusion for Academic Administrators - workshop that includes sexual harassment process/procedures and the continuum of sexual violence.
  • Respect in the workplace for Managers - workshop that includes sexual harassment process/procedures and the continuum of sexual violence.

Support Services

A range of related support services are also available as follows:

  • Sexual Violence Response Office (SVRO)
    • Critical Incident Coordination
    • Provides ongoing care and support for students.
    • Liaises with parents/next of kin and anyone the student would like them to connect with.
    • Provides Emergency housing.
    • Arranges for emergency funding.
    • Advocacy with York financial offices and York academic departments/offices.
    • Provides referrals to CDS and SASSL.
    • Works closely with Centre for Human Rights and Security Services.
    • Make referrals to other York resources or referrals agencies for housing, employment, personal counselling, and legal advice.
  • Sexual Assault Survivors' Support Line and Leadership
    • Student organization that provides support for those who have experienced sexual violence.
    • Operates a confidential 24/7 Support Line (September to May).
    • Provides internal and external referrals.
    • Coordinates education initiatives and events.
    • Provides emergency funding to survivors.


Safety Communication

The University has a longstanding practice of sharing important security information with the York community to allow individuals and groups to exercise appropriate precautions to protect personal safety and property. It also fosters the understanding that safety is a shared responsibility amongst everyone at York University.

  • Security Bulletins are emailed to all York U students, faculty and staff to notify them of a serious incident representing an ongoing risk. All Bulletins are also available on the Security Services website.
  • The Weekly Security Incident Log (WSIL) provides online information about incidents occurring on campus.
  • York U Safety App provides access to all of the University’s safety resources. Push Notifications and the safety alert feature allow the university to communicate campus emergencies directly and immediately with users.
  • Emergency LCD Displays are installed throughout the Keele and Glendon campuses, which will display instructions on what to do along with an accompanying audio message, in the case of an emergency.
  • Exterior and Interior Safety Phones connect users with York Security or goSAFE directly. Interior safety phones are typically located in elevator lobbies, hallways, residence lobbies and laundry rooms, building entrances, and large lecture halls. Exterior emergency blue light phones are located across campus and identified with a blue light which flashes when activated.
  • PA System is comprised of indoor and outdoor speakers, as well as strobe lights. The PA system allows emergency situations to be communicated directly and immediately to building users.

Complaint and Tribunal Process

In cases where an incident occurs, York has a complaint and Tribunal process in place as follows:

  • Critical Incident Coordination is provided to students through the Sexual Violence Response Office (SVRO).
  • Vice-Provost Students (VPS) can invoke Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (CSRR) Emergency Measures as needed.
  • University Tribunal process has alternative methods of hearing testimony and asking questions that may be used in cases where potential traumatization of any party is a consideration (e.g. allegations involving physical violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking).
    • Support from external counsel when hearing cases of sexual assault
  • OSCR educates departments across campus about what they do so they can inform students when and how to file complaints.
  • OSCR reviews Security Incident Reports on a daily basis
    • Coordinates weekly meetings to support students of concern
    • Works closely with the Deans/Associate Deans to support students in crisis
  • Sexual Harassment complaints are referred to the Centre for Human Rights.

Committees / Councils furthering York’s Commitment

  • Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response Policy Working Group
  • Active Bystander Program Committees
  • Management Safety Committee
  • Community Safety Council (CSC)
  • Safety Audit Standing Committee
  • CSC Student Committee
  • President’s Advisory Council on Human Rights
  • SexGen Committee
  • Enable York

Relevant Policies and Procedures