Empty Offices, Empty Words: York’s Sexual Violence Response Office (SVRO)

It has been over two months since York University’s Board of Governors passed York University’s non-transparent, non-survivor centric sexual assault policy. CUPE 3903’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC), after pressuring York for over a year to be properly consulted on such a policy, found that the process of York University’s Sexual Assault Policy Working Group was anything but transparent. The Trans Feminist Action Caucus (TFAC) later joined the working group, only to discover that York had already drafted a policy, a policy that does not respond to the criticisms CUPE 3903 has raised, and that its policy is not being used as a basis for informed consultations with community members. CUPE 3903’s statement accompanying our release of the policy included four reasons explaining this action. TFAC, and CUPE 3903 as a whole withdrew from the working group in protest. TFAC’s statement on their withdrawal highlight problems with both the process and the policy itself. 

CUPE 3903 has been informed that York’s promised Sexual Violence Response Office (SVRO) has still not materialized, as there is still no physical location, despite the promises of York’s Sexual Assault Policy Working Group. TFAC is concerned that York will host the office in a student specific building, such as the Student Centre, when some of the most vulnerable York community members, such as maintenance staff working night shifts in desolate buildings, might have difficulty accessing such spaces. 

To quote TFAC, what TFAC wants, what CUPE 3903 wants, what York needs, is:

A Survivor-Centric Sexual Assault Support Centre and Policy. A survivor-centric sexual assault support centre would be open 24 hours a day, staffed with specially trained nurses and counsellors who are available to help survivors with whatever it is the survivor needs: medical care, emergency housing, how to navigate establishing a safety plan at the university etc. The staff will be under no obligation to break the survivor’s confidentiality in any way at any time. A survivor-centric policy puts the needs of the survivor first because it is developed and written by survivors and clearly incorporates research on survivor-centric responses and the testimonials of survivors. It is neither concerned with protecting the university nor protecting the assailant. Instead, it demands survivors be heard, respected and believed.