Newspaper article The Canadian Press

University of Victoria Silencing Sexual Assault Victims, Students Say

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

University of Victoria Silencing Sexual Assault Victims, Students Say

Article excerpt

University silencing assault victims: students

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VICTORIA - A student says the University of Victoria failed her in its investigation of a sexual assault complaint and warned her to stay quiet about its findings.

The student said she had to request the investigator's report. When she received a redacted version several weeks later, an attached letter warned her not to discuss the findings with anyone other than her lawyer, family, counsellor or police.

The report determined she had not been sexually assaulted because she hadn't verbally said "No," even though the investigator found her to be a credible complainant, she said.

"I felt completely invalidated and silenced," said the woman, who asked not to be named. "I was really frustrated."

The woman and two students who work in residences have come forward with complaints that the university is failing sexual assault victims and fostering a culture of silence. The allegations emerge as universities across Canada face criticism of their handling of campus attacks.

Joel Lynn, executive director of student services, said the University of Victoria encourages the campus community to have an open dialogue about sexual violence. He said students who report assaults are connected with support workers who guide them throughout the process.

He said he could not discuss specific cases, but investigations rely on the Criminal Code definition of sexual assault, in which silence is not considered a form of consent.

"We do not have a 'no means no' policy," he said.

He said external investigator reports are first given verbally but the written report has to be requested, so that sensitive legal and privacy information about third parties can be removed.

A copy of the letter received by the student states that "failure to maintain confidentiality may result in the university pursuing disciplinary actions with its applicable policies."

But Lynn said support staff help students understand that it's "their story to tell."

"We do caution students about ... disclosing third-party information, but we certainly don't put any barriers around students where they can't tell their story," he said.

Like many universities in Canada, the University of Victoria lacks a stand-alone policy to respond to sexual assaults and instead relies on a non-academic misconduct policy.

The student said she was assaulted in November and immediately reported it to the school. She said she decided against going to police because she feared how she would be treated by officers. …

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