Twenty-two post-secondary institutions discuss solutions
By Lauren Kelly, News Editor
On April 21, students and faculty from 22 Canadian post-secondary institutions joined experts for the Inter-University Conversation on Sexual Assault Prevention at UBC’s Liu Institute. The event was hosted by the UBC Alma Mater Society’s Sexual Assault Support Centre as part of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week 2015.
Elizabeth Sheehy, the event’s keynote speaker, is a prominent law professor who has written and edited many books and articles on the topic of sexual assault and violence against women.
She discussed the backdrop against which this event was taking place, with recent incidents at Canadian post-secondary institutions such as the Dalhousie Dentistry School, St Mary’s, and UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
Sheehy said that in addition to campus policy, there must also be action to educate and prevent incidents, and support those who have experienced sexual assault in the past. Campus policies do exist to help students report their assaults, but with low statistics for sexual assault, further steps are not always taken. These low statistics are the result of multiple factors.
There are many reasons people may not report their assault: shame, victim blaming, cultural stigma, and the belief that their assault isn’t severe enough are just a few.
In a recent example of incomplete sexual assault data, UBC told a CBC News investigation that there had been 16 sexual assaults on their campus between 2009 and 2013. CBC checked the records of the RCMP’s UBC detachment over the same time period and found over 70 instances.
The same investigation received data from 77 institutions across Canada and were told of over 700 in total, which “experts say […] is surprisingly low, and an indication that [institutions] are doing a poor job of encouraging students to come forward.”
Some campuses have begun placing higher priority on caring for survivors of assault, and the dialogue opened at this event should lead to more campuses doing the same.
Chris Hackett from the University of Alberta discussed its Sexual Assault Centre, which includes response teams, certified psychologists, and volunteers. It is available to students of all genders, orientations, and backgrounds, regardless of where they were assaulted.
Although Douglas College does not have a Sexual Assault Centre, it is possible for students and faculty who have experienced sexual harassment to report and discuss their options with a Harassment Advisor as per Douglas Policy section A02.09.01. In addition to this, personal counselling services are available to students who require support.