UWindsor launches new online sexual violence reporting tool

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The University of Windsor is trying to make reporting sexual violence easier for victims.

Dusty Johnstone is the director of the university's Office of Sexual Violence, Resistance, and Support.

Johnstone says a new online reporting platform will provide more options for students and staff while allowing them to remain anonymous — an issue that often deters victims from coming forward.

She says the goal is to break down barriers for those who want to speak.

"What we know is that when people have been harmed by sexual violence it can be extremely stressful to come forward, but when they do we want to make sure that we're giving them options," she says.  "So trying to make sure that it's a trauma-informed, survivor-centred process that's really built with a lot of privacy in the design."

Johnstone says staying online gives the anonymity many are looking for.

"Online can be a more approachable way to initiate the process, to start putting in information, to control how much information they include," says Johnstone.  "It will save their information with a lot of security features built around that, but they can control when they submit it and also how."

She adds the online tool helps make the best of a bad situation.

"Our goal, in the long run, what we're trying to do at the university is prevent sexual violence before it happens, but we know that that's not always possible," she says.  "So we want to make sure that we have all of the tools that we can to best provide support to the members of our community who need it."

The university has partnered with national company REES (Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors) to roll out the new online reporting tool.