Stand-alone policies are thought to be vital because they recognize that sexual assault is different from other forms of misconduct, set out specific procedures for handling complaints and outline support services for victims. Clear policies help reduce under-reporting, said Arte. "There are survivors on campus who don't feel adequately supported by the institution because they don't have stand-alone policies on sexual and gender-based violence." Many schools rely on non-academic misconduct policies, including the University of Victoria, where a student was recently banned from campus after police arrested him in connection with four alleged assaults. Kenya Rogers, director of external relations for the university's student society, said the incident underscores the need for a provincewide framework like Ontario's 2015 plan to stop sexual violence. The plan was developed with input from students and included a law that, if passed, would make campus sexual assault policies mandatory.
"There are survivors on campus who don't feel adequately supported by the institution because they don't have stand-alone policies on sexual and gender-based violence."
B.C. rejected calls for legislation
UBC committee to create stand-alone policy
"There has been a growing recognition across all campuses in North America that sexual assault really is a crime like no other," said Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president of equity and inclusion at UBC. "To deal with it in the best and most responsible way, it's important (for it to) have its own policy." Mandi Gray, a York University graduate student who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a fellow PhD candidate, said it's not enough to have a policy — it has to be good policy. (A judge-alone trial in her case began last month and she has waived her right to a publication ban on her name.) Gray launched a human-rights complaint alleging York's sexual assault policy discriminates against women, who are most often victims. She said the policy lacks specific procedures for reporting assaults, forcing her to repeat her story to 12 staff members. "There's no way to have a great experience of your sexual assault being investigated," she said. "But we can do better than what we're doing." York spokeswoman Janice Walls said the policy was created with input from survivors and the university is still developing additional procedures. It is considering a single point of contact for reporting and supporting victims, she said.
"There's no way to have a great experience of your sexual assault being investigated. But we can do better than what we're doing."
Wayne MacKay, the Dalhousie University law professor who led the report on the Saint Mary's chants, said it's important for universities to have a separate process for handling sexual assaults outside of the criminal justice system. The Saint Mary's sexual assault policy states that the university may contact police, while respecting that victims have the right not to co-operate with officers and to protect their anonymity. MacKay said many victims do not want to file criminal complaints because of fears about how they will be treated at trial. The standard of proof is also lower at universities, where offences are decided on a balance of probabilities rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, he said. Canadian universities have been slow to adopt sexual assault policies in part because administrations have been in denial about the extent of the problem, MacKay added. "There's more and more evidence that it happens everywhere and happens to varying degrees on every campus," he said. "If you don't really acknowledge the problem, you're not going to effectively respond to it." — Follow @ellekane on Twitter.
"If you don't really acknowledge the problem, you're not going to effectively respond to it."
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