For the past five years, the OSVRSE (Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education) has provided confidential, non-judgmental, and non-directional support to any members of the McGill community (students, faculty, and staff) who have been impacted by sexual or gender-based violence. OSVRSE is now revamping itself to increase its capacity to support survivors and educate the community.
The revamping is part of a five-year plan that the OSVRSE team developed with an external consultant. Over the following months, the team will grow from two people to five. The original core positions — a Response Advisor who works with survivors, and an Education Advisor who leads workshops and training for student groups and staff — will be joined by:
- An Associate Director who will provide long-term vision for the office;
- A second Education Advisor, allowing OSVRSE to fulfill its goal of developing new training content, including new workshops and new modules for It Takes All of Us, and expand OSVRSE’s capacity for training for faculty and staff; and
- An Administrative Coordinator who will coordinate scheduling and provide general team support.
Hiring for these permanent positions is underway. Two of the hires are expected to be in place for January, a third by March, with the rest to follow by the beginning of next academic year.
Support still available
Émilie Marcotte, an award-winning member of OSVRSE, who has been with the team almost since its inception, is overseeing this major expansion. While this is done, survivor support has been temporarily transferred to the Office of the Dean of Students (ODoS) team of Case Managers. The OSVRSE phone lines and online booking page redirect to the ODoS to ensure that support services continue to be available to all members of the McGill community. During this time, the OSVRSE email account may not be monitored with the usual frequency, so members of the community may contact ODoS directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The ODoS Case Management team, Dean Robin Beech, and Associate Dean Cindy Mancuso received specific training on the intake of survivors. This training ensures that best practices are in place and conversations will be trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and non-judgmental. Marcotte also worked with the Wellness Hub to ensure survivors will be connected through priority referrals to counselling, ensuring an appointment within days. As with OSVRSE, the ODoS team can explain the options available to a survivor, academic accommodations, and immediate measures that can be put in place – regardless of whether an official report is filed. The team can also review the options for a survivor who wishes to file a formal report directly with the OMR (Office for Mediation and Reporting). Survivors who disclose or receive support through student groups, such as SACOMMS, have access to immediate measures from the University and academic accommodations by referring survivors, with consent, to the Case Managers in ODoS.
Beech held a town hall with approximately 20 student leaders on November 17 to review the expansion of OSVRSE and the provision of interim support. The discussion was open and invited input about this transition period. Dean Beech notes the excellent suggestions to improve the clarity of messaging on the OSVRSE website. He appreciated the students’ understanding of the need to transition now and their assistance in ensuring that the message for how to receive support would reach those in need. There was general support for the expansion of OSVRSE.
“OSVRSE has built up a level of public trust that is essential for the work they do,” says Beech. “We felt that moving survivor support temporarily to the ODoS was the best way to maintain that trust, to ensure continued and compassionate survivor support from those experienced in crisis, who also know McGill. We anticipate that survivor support will be transferred back to OSVRSE by the end of the year.”