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Lambton College enhancing on-campus student protection

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Laura Burke hopes a more robust sexual violence policy at Lambton College will help put students at ease in the wake of allegations of numerous assaults at London’s Western University last month.

“This past year, it’s really come to the forefront that we need to continue to strengthen our program and really put that focus back on a consent-based environment,” said Lambton’s campus safety & security specialist.

Laura Burke

“We are pretty proud of what we’ve put into place so far, and really, our student safety and sexual violence prevention is our top priority.”

Burke helped assemble the college’s first Sexual Assault Advisory Taskforce in 2016 — following the unveiling of Ontario’s ‘It’s Never Okay’ action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment. Partners include the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre Sarnia-Lambton, Bluewater Health and various college representatives, including a new student ambassador position that was created this year.

“We came together and really helped form our policy on campus…which has always been based on the premise that we will believe any report that comes through to the college,” said Burke. “We are here to support survivors of sexual violence, and know that they’re supported and appropriately accommodated and if they choose to make a formal complaint.”

The response includes bystander intervention training, social media, and education and prevention campaigns. Campus design changes include better outdoor lighting, security cameras, swipe card access, and employee panic desktop buttons. Exterior emergency ‘duress stations’ are connected to campus security and supplement a Lambton Safe App and SafeWalk program.

“We have our wellness centre with our nurse practitioner, counselling and psychiatrist services, because we know that the mental health and trauma associated with sexual violence is quite significant,” said Burke.

The college task force developed a series of six metrics for reporting sexual assault, which include stalking and voyeurism.

In 2019, Lambton College had one formal complaint of sexual exploitation. Five complaints in both 2018 and 2017 included sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and indecent exposure.

No formal complaints were received last year, but Burke said the pandemic brought increased concerns about students studying off-campus.

“We knew that during those times of isolation and lockdown, there was likely going to be an increased of risk of violence of all types,” she said.

A video series was launched with community partners to address barriers students might feel about seeking community services.

“I’m hopeful in 2021 that with all the extra support of the student ambassador being on campus, and really increasing the education piece — how and where to report — that students will begin to come forward,” Burke added.

“We’re doing our best to ensure a safe environment for the students, to keep things confidential, and really just to support them in any way they need.”




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