Sexual violence support

This guide, adapted from the Guide for Student Survivors of Sexual Violence booklet (available from OCAD U's Student Services Centre on the 5th and 6th floors of 230 Richmond Street West) is provided to give OCAD University students who are survivors of sexual or gender-based violence information on how to receive support such as counselling services and academic accommodations, and options for reporting, regardless of whether or not they choose to disclose their experience to anyone at OCAD U.

The Guide for Student Survivors of Sexual Violence is also available in a downloadable PDF. Note: If you are concerned about an abuser monitoring your behaviour, it may be safer for you not to download a file that could be searchable on your computer or device. Read more about covering your tracks...

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent, and includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism and sexual exploitation. Sexual violence can be perpetrated both in person and online.

If you have experienced sexual violence

OCAD University recognizes your experience as a survivor of sexual violence is valid and may require support. The university understands that anyone can be subjected to sexual violence regardless of gender, sexual identity, disability status, age or race and acknowledges that instances sexual violence disproportionately affect women and trans/gender non-conforming individuals.

OCAD U’s Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender-based Violence establishes the Student Wellness Centre as the primary point of contact for students who experience sexual violence. Through the Centre, students can access medical and counselling services, academic accommodations, learn about options for reporting, and receive guidance on formal complaint options through the policy.

Student Wellness Centre
416-977-6000, Ext. 260
230 Richmond St. W., 6th Floor
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Urgent same-day appointments are available.

Even if you’re unsure what your options are, or what your next step should be, Student Wellness staff will discuss all options with you in a confidential, non-judgmental and safe environment. You will be respected and supported in whatever decisions you make about next steps. A student is not required to make a report or file a complaint about an incident of sexual violence in order to obtain support or accommodations from the university.

Reacting to sexual violence

Sexual violence is a traumatic violation of the body, mind and spirit. It profoundly affects a person’s health and well-being.

Each person reacts in a unique way to sexual violence. Whether one experiences some or none of these feelings, each reaction is normal for each person. There is no right or wrong way to cope or feel after experiencing sexual violence.

The following responses are experienced by many survivors of sexual assault or abuse:

  • A survivor's self-esteem often diminishes after an assault or abuse. You may feel shamed, humiliated, guilty, angry, and powerless
  • Your attitude toward your body may be negatively affected. You may feel ashamed, or embarrassed by your body
  • You may experience physical symptoms of stress, for example: headaches, stomach problems, eating and sleeping problems
  • You may feel anxieties, depression, shame, anger/rage or fear
  • You may feel shock, disbelief
  • You may feel disconnected from self and others
  • You may feel frozen or numb
  • You may feel loss or grief
  • You may have mood swings
  • You may feel hyper-alertness
  • You may use alcohol or drugs to numb or cope with feelings or memories
  • You may cut, burn or scratch yourself to numb or cope with feelings
  • You may find it difficult to trust others or to be emotionally close with others
  • You may not want sexual intimacy for some time
  • Oppositely, you might engage in risky sexual behaviors
  • You may feel that sexual activity is meaningless or empty
  • You may become aggressive, angry or withdrawn
  • You may experience flashbacks of what you went through
  • You may experience fear of being alone and fear of future attacks
  • You may experience nightmares or other sleep disturbances
  • You may not be able to concentrate, or experience performance issues at work or school

Remember that responses to sexual assault vary, and can change over time. Keep in mind that a survivor of sexual assault may experience a variety of different emotions and may cope in a variety of ways. This is normal. Every person is unique. (Adapted from Common Reactions to Sexual Assault, from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres).

OCAD U provides support to assist student survivors in processing these feelings through the Student Wellness Centre. OCAD U also provides references to additional supports in the community.

Making a disclosure

Your rights

As a survivor of sexual violence, you have a right to:

  • Be treated with compassion, dignity and non-judgmental respect
  • Be informed about the limits to confidentiality before disclosing, referral and support options, and possible academic accommodations
  • Be given timely and supportive assistance
  • Determine how you wish to proceed in regards to criminal or non-criminal reporting
  • Be the final decision maker about your own best interests

Disclosing and limits to confidentiality

If you decide to make a disclosure of sexual violence to an OCAD U faculty member, staff person or a student peer, you are entitled to be informed, before disclosing, about the level of confidentiality you can expect.

Everything you disclose to an OCAD U community member is confidential unless the recipient of your disclosure becomes concerned about your immediate safety, or the safety of others. If this happens, that person is obligated to notify a member of OCAD U’s Safety & Security team.

Keep in mind not all faculty, staff and students have received specialized training for responding to incidents and/or disclosures of sexual violence. OCAD U’s Student Wellness Centre staff, and members of the Safety & Security team have this training.

Emergency info

If you are on campus and you — or anyone else — is at immediate risk of harm:

Contact 911 and OCAD U Safety & Security
at 416-977-6000, Ext. 511
or pick up any red phone to be immediately connected

Student Wellness Centre
416-977-6000, Ext. 260
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Are you safe?

If the perpetrator is at risk of harming you or others, contact 911 immediately and get to somewhere safe.

If you do not feel safe in your home, arrange to stay with friends or contact emergency housing services.

If you are having suicidal thoughts and/or think you may harm yourself or someone else, please go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

If you are having trouble discerning how you feel or what you need, contact OCAD U’s Student Wellness Centre, or any of the helplines or mental health services available in the community.

Get support

Urgent medical care following an assault

Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres are hospital-based centres located across Ontario that provide 24/7 emergency care to women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted or who are victims or survivors of domestic violence (intimate partner) abuse. Read more...

On-campus support

Student Wellness Centre
Student Wellness is OCAD University’s primary point of contact for students affected by sexual or gender-based violence. Staff will provide information on internal and external supports and services, coordinate academic accommodations, outline options for reporting the incident and formal complaint options through the university’s Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender-based Violence policy. Read more...

Supports in the community

In addition to using on-campus support, OCAD University students may wish to access other support services in the broader community. These services may include counselling services, non-urgent medical support, housing, help lines and mental health services. Read more...

Reporting and complaints

OCAD University acknowledges that a decision to report sexual violence, either externally within the criminal justice system or internally through the university’s policies and procedures, involves potential implications. A complainant has the right to be informed of possible outcomes and implications of each relevant external or internal process and has the right to choose whether to report the incident(s) or not. The only exceptions to the complainant’s right to determine whether a report or complaint proceeds are in situations involving imminent risk (as outlined in Disclosing and limits to confidentiality). Read more...

Responding to student disclosures of sexual violence

OCAD University’s guide, Responding to Student Disclosures of Sexual Violence (PDF), provides staff, faculty, student peers and other campus leaders direction on how to respond effectively to a student disclosure of sexual or gender-based violence, and how to provide student survivors with accurate, timely and supportive referrals. This guide is also available as a Quick Reference Poster (PDF).

Faculty, staff and student peer leaders at OCAD University have a shared responsibility to ascertain a survivor’s safety, listen without judgement, inform survivors of the limits to confidentiality before receiving a disclosure, and refer students to the Health & Wellness Centre for support.

Employees who have experienced sexual violence

OCAD University’s Respectful Work & Learning Environment Policy (PDF) states that harassment and discrimination violate an individual’s human rights and run contrary to the university’s fundamental values. This includes sexual and gender-based harassment on campus, off-campus and on-line. At any time, employees may contact OCAD U’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives (ODESI) to confidentially ask a question, raise a concern or seek assistance. Meetings can be arranged off-campus if preferred.

OCAD University wishes to acknowledge the following organizations and institutions, whose related policies, publications and websites provided background in the development of this resource: University of Ottawa; Ryerson University; McMaster University; University of British Columbia; University of Toronto; METRAC Action on Violence; and the Ontario Women’s Directorate, Government of Ontario.

OCAD U also wishes to recognize the contributions of the university’s Sexual Violence Response Working Group in the development of policy, response protocols and survivor’s guide resources:
Deanne Fisher, Vice-Provost, Students & International (Chair)
McKenna Gray, Student Representative Khadija Aziz, OCAD Student Union
Pablo Munoz, OCAD Student Union
Jennifer Robinson, Health & Wellness
Robin Shaw, Health & Wellness
Amanda Hotrum, Office of Diversity, Equity & Sustainability Initiatives
Shamina Chherawala, Office of Diversity, Equity & Sustainability Initiatives
Fatimah Tuggar, Faculty of Art
Louis Toromoreno, Safety & Security Services