Sep. 02, 2015
Young people are at higher risk of sexual assault at the start of college and university
As university and college campuses come to life and frosh week activities begin, experts at the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital have some advice for students.
Talk about consent. Know what it is. Understand that all people deserve to be treated with dignity, equality and respect. And know you can come to St. Joseph’s Hospital for help.
“The beginning of college and university is a time when many young people can be at higher risk for sexual assault,” says Karen McGaw, registered nurse with the program. “We tend to see an increase in students in September and October. Consent needs to become the new status quo and requires ongoing conversation.”
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, many on-campus sexual assaults occur during the first eight weeks of classes. More than 80 per cent of sexual assaults that occur on college and university campuses are committed by someone known to the victim, with half of these incidences occurring on dates.
In the Ontario Government’s action plan It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan To Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, it’s reported that one in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime and victimization rates are five times higher for women under the age of 35. At the same time, few assault cases reach the courts and many survivors don’t access support and counseling. In Canada, out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 33 are reported to police and only three lead to conviction.
“We want students to know we are available if they need care or support, or simply have questions and want to know their options,” says social worker Linda Fischer, who is meeting with residence advisors at Western University and Fanshawe College so that students are aware of services at St. Joseph’s. “It’s always okay to call us. We can provide care or help you navigate the system.”
The Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program provides care for women, children and men who have experienced sexual assault and/or domestic violence. A team of specialized nurses, doctors and a social worker is available to provide care at the time of the assault and in the months following the incident. There are many options for care and each individual can choose what he or she wants to do. Depending on the nature of the assault and the time since the assault, the following services are available:
- Emotional support/crisis intervention
- Physical examination
- Testing, prevention, and/or treatment of sexually transmitted infections initially and in follow-up
- HIV prevention medication
- Testing and/or prevention of pregnancy due to sexual assault
- Documentation/photographs of injuries
- Forensic evidence collection
- Safety planning
- Referrals as needed
Individuals can access the program by going to the Urgent Care Centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital or any emergency department in London, Middlesex, Oxford, or Elgin counties and asking to speak to the nurse on call for sexual assault/domestic violence. They can also call the program at 519-646-6100, ext. 64224 to book an appointment for medical care and/or counselling.
After hours, individuals can call 519 646-6100, press "0" and ask switchboard to page the nurse-on-call for sexual assault and domestic violence
Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.