Development of sexual assault policy continues

As UBC faces complaints over sexual assault reports, TRU tries to avoid more complaints of its own

The heavily publicized sexual assault complaints at UBC have pushed the debate about university response to sexual assault on campus back into the spotlight.

TRU has been developing its sexual assault policy since July, and the task force created to draft it met again on Thursday, Nov. 19. Now, the issue of sexual assault on Canadian campuses has been brought into focus by complaints made against UBC by several students who felt that the response to their allegations of sexual misconduct by a classmate were improperly dealt with by the university.

TRU had its own complaint over the handling of a sexual assault report earlier this year, when journalism student Jean Strong published her article about TRU’s mishandling of her report of sexual assault in 2012.

The newly formed task force met before the story from UBC broke, but Dean of Students Christine Adam said that it confirmed the importance of drafting a sexual assault policy. Adam is content with the progress the task force has made. One of the main accomplishments of the meeting was defining some of the language used in the policy.

“The policy group needed some input from the task force in terms of the language we would actually use, I would say that that is consistent with questions that are being asked on other campuses as well. I mean the extent to which we use the terms ‘sexual assault’ or ‘sexual violence’ or ‘sexual misconduct’ and also how we use terms like ‘victim,’ ‘survivor,’ ‘complainant,’” Adam said.

According to Adam, the response and reporting group attended a conference in Ontario to learn how other institutions are handling the issue. She expects draft documents from all four groups within the committee to be up for discussion at the task force’s next meeting on Jan. 14.

Adam said the policy the task force is looking to develop will be “based on procedural fairness and allow the victim to have some control of the process.”

Strong said that she was invited to be involved in the task force in September, after meeting with Adam, but hasn’t heard anything from the university since the invitation.

“At the end of that meeting I was told that I would be receiving further communications, inviting me to certain events and meetings of the task force throughout the semester. I was thrilled because I really wanted to be able to speak at the task force and be a spokesperson for a number of other girls like myself,” Strong said.

Adam said that it was too early in the process of drafting a policy to bring in specific accounts, such as Strong’s.

“This initial piece of work has really been about identifying the key decision points that need to be made. The next bit of work is about starting to draft things and to get input from others beyond the task force itself,” Adam said.

More people will be involved in the process going forward, Adam said. Strong was hoping to be involved because of how many students had reached out to her with stories similar to her own.

When asked if Strong was considered for the task force, Adam said that representatives were appointed via TRUSU.