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Western, St. Joseph’s partner to offer on-campus domestic violence, sexual assault supports

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

Officials with Western University have announced new on-campus supports for students who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence as part of a partnership with St. Joseph’s Health Care London (SJHCL).

The partnership with SJHCL’s Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment program will see specialized nurses, doctors and social workers provide services both at the hospital and on campus, at no charge, as needed and requested, a release from Western University said.

In a statement, Terry McQuaid of Western University said the initiative supplants existing supports offered by the school, with the addition of more supports after hours and on weekends, “in an environment where survivors are most comfortable.”

“The St. Joseph’s program has an outstanding reputation and we’re really pleased we can forge a partnership that builds on trauma-informed pathways for survivors of violence,” said McQuaid, who is Western’s director of wellness and well-being.

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The supports that will be offered include emotional support and crisis intervention; physical examination; testing, prevention and/or treatment of sexually transmitted infections; HIV prevention medication; documentation/photographs of injuries and forensic evidence collection, and more, a release from Western read.

“This agreement with Western allows the nurses to meet the students where they are, discuss options of care and support them back to the program if or when needed. The survivor knows that whatever care path they choose, they are not doing it alone,” Cassie Fisher, co-ordinator, medicine services at SJHCL, said in a statement.

“Our hope is that this new model of care will support survivors to feel safer in disclosing and seeking the support and care they need.”

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The partnership comes months after the university was rocked by allegations of widespread sexual assaults and drugging on campus during orientation week in September.

Social media posts at the time alleged that as many as 30 or more students may have been drugged and/or assaulted in Medway-Sydenham Hall during the first week back to school.

London police launched an investigation, and in early October, announced that after speaking with more than 600 people, they had received no formal reports related to the allegations.

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“We have been unable to substantiate information circulated in social media posts about widespread incidents of that nature,” police said at the time.

Police officials acknowledged, however, that many victims of sexual assault struggle to come forward, and that some who may be initially reluctant to report may do so at a later date.

Both Anova and the London Abused Women’s Centre reported receiving multiple calls in connection with the allegations.

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In an emailed statement on Wednesday, police spokesperson Const. Sandasha Bough said the investigation remained open, however there was no further update to provide.

Following the reports, Western struck an action committee on gender-based and sexual violence, and brought on residence health and safety advisors.

In addition, the school says it has implemented mandatory sexual violence awareness and prevention training for students living on campus, and made enhancements to on-campus security.

— with files from Sawyer Bogdan

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

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