Western University partners with Anova to offer counselling amid social media reports of sexual assault, drugging

Western University in London, Ont, on May 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

Western University is working with Anova to run drop-in counselling and peer support for students as stories come out of sexual assault and gender-based violence on campus.

From Wednesday to Friday this week, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Western’s Sydenham Hall, Anova will have one-on-one counselling, peer support and calming actives.

Anova is an organization that works to address gender-based violence, providing shelter for victims and sexual assault support.

Over the weekend, several social media posts alleged a number of female students were drugged and/or sexually assaulted.

On Tuesday afternoon, London police and the president of Western University held a joint media conference where Chief Steve Williams said they are investigating social media reports that 30 or more students may have been drugged and/or assaulted in Western University’s Medway-Sydenham Hall Saturday night.

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“What we do know is folks are heavily impacted by what’s happening and the conversation that’s happening,” said AnnaLise Trudell, manager of education, training, and research at Anova.

Anova works closely with Western around developing supports for sexual and gender-based violence and prevention education.

The last update from police Tuesday afternoon was that they were talking to students at the school but they had not had any come forward with a formal report of sexual assault or drugging.

“We don’t know more than the general community knows, but it important to know we may never know,” Trudell said. “We know most survivors do not go through formal reporting process for valid and legitimate reasons, so how many and what sort of variety or iteration we may not know those details.”

Since the incident, Trudell said they have heard from survivors of all genders and folks who are supporting survivors.

According to a survey from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), between the 2017-2018 school year, 71 per cent of Western University students reported being sexually harassed, while 32 per cent or one in three reported being sexually assaulted.

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“We know sexual violence is incredibly common on campus, especially during frosh week, so whether we end up knowing details about this or not, we know this is a larger trend: if you are not a survivor, you definitely know someone who is.”

Looking at what’s next, Trudell said although the full scope of what happened may not be known, it’s important not to forget about perpetrators when talking about sexual assault.

“Frankly all of us probably know some perpetrators when it’s one in three folks that will be sexually assaulted,” Trudell said.

In addition to the reports of sexual assault this past weekend, Western officials have also confirmed four other formal complaints of sexual violence from students were filed during the first week of school.

London police confirmed three incidents involving four female victims were under investigation and that one person had been arrested and released without charges.

On Friday at noon, a walkout has been planned to support survivors of sexual assault on campus with students expected to gather at UC Hill.

Anyone who has experienced sexual or gender-based violence can contact Anova’s Crisis Line 24/7 at 519-642-3000, LAWC 519-432-2204 or the Abused Women’s Helpline at 519-642-3000.

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