Responding to Disclosures on Campus

Interrelating systems of discrimination

Discrimination occurs on individual, systemic and institutional levels. Forms of discrimination are based on grounds such as racism, indigeneity, sexism, cissexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism including psychiatric labels, audism, class inequity, and religious intolerance such as Islamophobia and antisemitism. These grounds intersect to create systems or structures of discrimination that advantage and disadvantage some groups.

Systems of discrimination shape the social locations of every member of society. They dictate life chances and shape the meaning in nature of violence, how it is experienced by survivors and how it is responded to by others (Bograd 1999; Spade, 2017). Systems of discrimination also impact how personal and social consequences are represented including how and whether safety can be obtained, and for whom.

Homelessness is a significant risk for being targeted for violence. Unhoused women and gender diverse people are at higher risk. For example, 37.4% of unhoused young women and 41.3% of unhoused Transgender and gender Non-Binary youth experience sexual assault compared to 8.2% of unhoused young men (Schwan, 2020). State of Women’s Homelessness

“Canada is a country founded upon colonization and immigration” OHRC

Many people who come Canada have their own history of hardship and lack of opportunity. At the same time Canada had already been taken from the people to whom the land belonged.

Aboriginal women face life-threatening, gender-based violence, and disproportionately experience violent crimes because of hatred and racism.” Native Women’s Association of Canada

All people who experience oppression of any sort have encountered the brutality of colonization; racism, violence, poverty, appropriation of culture and beliefs, segregation, and being forced to conform to dominant standards of gender and sexuality.

Responder Intersectionality

From an intersectional perspective, both the survivor of sexual violence and the responder may be experiencing social advantage, or lack thereof, as a member of a particular social group.

At the same time, university and college employees represent a professional group and are therefore automatically in a position of formal power in most disclosure situations. In a professional relationship, a formal position of power carries significant weight (ie teacher to student, manager to supervisee). In a situation of disclosing sexual violence, the responder is also automatically in a position of trust while the survivor is emotionally vulnerable.

Applying an intersectional lens can help us to understand the individual, systemic and institutional barriers experienced by members of disadvantaged groups. These barriers occur along a vast continuum from personal conversations, to class content, or to decisions made across a sector.

Trans and nonbinary inclusivity can be supported by campus-wide campaigns and consistent messaging.