A University of Toronto study says there are no conclusive statistics to prove that sexual orientation has any effect on sexual harassment or sexual assault, but students have begun to explore their feelings on campus.
The results of the first wave of campus sexual harassment and assault research, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, show that sexual harassment is less prevalent on campuses where there is a higher percentage of women, people of colour and people who are LGBTQ.
“What we found is that a lot of the stigma that we have about sexual assault and sexual harassment that’s out there, there is really no evidence to support it,” said lead author and doctoral student Andrew Stewart, who is also the executive director of the university’s Centre for the Study of Sex, Gender and Sexuality.
“It seems that the general public doesn’t think that sexual assault is that big of a deal, but it is.”
The research, presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, found that, when it comes to sexual harassment, only 17 per cent of students believe sexual assault victims are lying, and just 8 per cent believe that sexual misconduct is a problem on campus, according to the report.
Sexual harassment is also more prevalent among the less educated and underrepresented communities, where fewer people hold the same views, said Stewart.
“If we’re going to talk about sexual harassment as a problem, we need to look at the people who do the actual physical violence, who actually do it,” he said.
“We don’t see those people as being the problem.”
Sexual assault has been a contentious issue in Canada, with the Conservative government recently proposing a new law to make it illegal to commit sexual assault in the workplace.
A federal report found that sexual assaults and harassment are not limited to sexual assault or harassment.
In Ontario, the number of sexual assaults reported to police rose by a staggering 42 per cent in 2016, and more than 1,100 women were reported to the police last year, according the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
Sexual assault was also the top reason given for an individual to leave a job in Ontario in 2015, according an Ottawa Citizen investigation.
“Sexual harassment is a crime and it needs to be addressed and it’s something that we’re still dealing with,” said Stewart, adding that universities are increasingly working to develop policies and procedures that address sexual harassment.
“When you’re at the top of the pyramid, you need to make sure you’re listening to the people at the bottom of the ladder, so that when you’re in the middle, you’re actually able to be more effective.”
The findings from the Canadian Institute of Research on Human Sexuality research are consistent with other studies, which have found that LGBTQ individuals are at higher risk of sexual harassment on campus and that there is little research on the effect of sexual orientation on sexual assault.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not mutually exclusive terms.
Some of the research cited in the study focused on students, and included an analysis of the experiences of LGBTQ students at the University of Manitoba.
“The research has shown that students of colour, who are at a higher risk, are the most likely to be sexually harassed,” said Laura-Anne Hartman, director of research and policy at the LGBTQ student advocacy group Manitoba Students for Fairness (MFSF).
“The study also found that those students who were LGBT were the most at risk of being the target of sexual violence on campus.”
In a 2015 study, Hartman said, sexual assault was “the leading cause of violence on Canadian campuses,” and one of the top five reasons that students reported being sexually assaulted on their campuses.
The MFSF also pointed to a 2015 survey of more than 3,500 students from across the country, which found that 19 per cent said they were sexually harassed on campus at some point in their life, and another 11 per cent were victims of physical violence on a campus.
That survey found that LGBT people are more likely to report being harassed and assaulted than other students.
In 2016, there were 7,800 reported sexual assaults on Canadian university campuses, according a 2016 report by the University and College Protection Association (UCCPA).
According to a recent CBC report, one in three LGBTQ students said that they have been the target or victim of sexual assault during their university education.
That was a jump of 18 per cent from the previous year, which also found a rise in the number and severity of sexual abuse, including of women.
The University of British Columbia’s Graduate School of Public Health, which commissioned the new research, said in a statement that the new findings are an important step in helping to end the stigma and protect survivors of sexual misconduct.
“In the United States, the UCCPA commissioned a study that found that 60 per cent or more of sexual-assault survivors had experienced physical violence at some time in their lives,” said the