Leaders' Role in Preventing Workplace Sexual Violence

Leaders play a unique role in shaping workplace culture. Research suggests that workplace culture that best predicts sexual violence. Leaders who lead with integrity, self-awareness and empathy can have a significant impact on reducing violence on campus. When leaders take sexual violence seriously, so will their faculty and staff. 

Every member of the university community has a right to learn and work in an environment free of sexual harassment and violence. 

Sexual violence is one of the most underreported events that individuals experience. In reality, the statistics collected in Canada on workplace sexual harassment is only a small indication of the problem in the workplace. Many instances of sexual violence in the workplace remain unreported due to an imbalance of power; fear of reprisal, fear of not being believed, fear of inaction and fear of losing their job. 

The documented facts:

While the goal for all supervisors, managers and leaders should be to create a safe climate, raise awareness and provide education to prevent acts of sexual violence in the workplace from even happening, it is equally important to be aware of what your roles and responsibilities are once you hear of an act of sexual violence in the workplace.

As people leaders, faculties, departments and work units should monitor their workplace for concerning behavior, take all disclosures seriously and treat them equally. Additionally, all complaints should be treated with the utmost confidentiality to ensure there is no retaliation  following a disclosure. Knowing how to receive a disclosure is essential.  

The university also has a Violence Prevention Appendix to our Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control Procedure which specifically outlines your responsibilities if you witness or experience acts of violence. All faculty and staff have a responsibility to act once they are made aware of workplace violence. 

As a leader, you have an obligation to both seek guidance and act once you become aware of workplace sexual violence. It is imperative that you follow the necessary disclosure practices to ensure the appropriate investigation can occur in a timely manner.

Your Responsibility

Create culture: create a workplace culture of care and concern, one that is psychologically safe where people are encouraged to raise issues and concerns. 

Educate: create ongoing opportunities to raise awareness, educate and discuss difficult topics. Encourage faculty and staff members to access available training opportunities to ensure they are prepared to receive workplace disclosures and know the resources available. (i.e. sexual violence, domestic abuse, psychological safety)

Respond: Listen. Believe. Ask how you can help. Explore options. 

Report: if you become aware of instances of sexual violence in the workplace, you are responsible for promptly reporting the incident as per the Violence Prevention Appendix to our Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control Procedure.

Workplace Sexual Violence Education

Human Resource Services is working to offer education and awareness on workplace sexual violence in a variety of modalities. When sessions are offered, they are available for registration at the Learn Centre

A number of free webinars can also be found online at Courage to Act 


UAlberta Sexual Assault Centre - The University’s Sexual Assault Centre is accessible to all members of the University community and is a wealth of information and expertise. 

Helping Individuals at Risk - Helping Individuals at Risk (HIAR) is a confidential, centralized resource for members of the campus community to report worrisome behaviours or concerns about individuals at risk of harming themselves or others.

Safe Disclosure and Human Rights - The Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights provides confidential disclosure services as well as advising and consulting on any issue relating to Human Rights, Discrimination, Harassment and Accommodation issues.

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) - the university has worked closely with the EFAP program to ensure they maintain clinical experience and expertise with sexual violence so they are positioned to provide support to those impacted by sexual violence.

University of Alberta Protective Services - University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) provides a positive university environment for students, staff, faculty and visitors through the prevention, intervention, and response to risks and emerging issues related to safety and security.