Watch above: As University of Saskatchewan students settle in for another year of studies we check in to see whether changes have been made to the institution’s sexual assault policy. Meaghan Craig tells us why the call was made in the first place and whether it has been heeded.
SASKATOON – Eleven sexual assaults have been reported at the University of Saskatchewan between 2009 and 2014. Officials from here and other campuses across the country believe the number is a conservative one and under reported.
Story continues below
Similarities in 5 Saskatoon cases: sex crimes unit
Sask. man charged with drugging, sexually assaulting 7-year-old girl
Saskatchewan to provide increased funding for sexual assault centres
For some time now officials have been drafting a policy to address sexual assault on campus and now they’re drawing a line in the sand on where the university stands.
While protocols have been place for while, they are now being put down on paper. This comes as hundreds of students sit in the campus bowl taking part in welcome week festivities with a beer in hand which for some it’s their first taste of freedom.
“Do I worry about those events in the bowl? You bet I do,” said Patricia McDougall, vice-provost, teaching and learning at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).
“Do I understand and do the students explain to me that that’s an important part of the undergraduate culture or the university? I do as well.”
The reality is the majority of sexual assaults at university take place in the first year, the majority of those take place in the first eight weeks and alcohol is frequently involved. Even if they do happen McDougall added that only a small number of these cases are reported in any formal or official way.
One sexual assault that was reported to campus security at the U of S, was made by a 20-year old woman who said she was raped at a student residence on campus on New Year’s day 2012. It was also reported to police and went to trial where one man was convicted, the other acquitted.
READ MORE: Guilty verdict for one of two men in Saskatoon sexual assault trial
The university admits at the time of the assault it failed the victim and failed to issue a warning to the entire student body for six weeks.
“One of the two perpetrators was a student at the time living in our residence and so as far as campus safety that would trigger certainly a message to the campus security.”
One major source of confusion was whether or not the university could do anything if if there was a criminal investigation in play.
“That’s simply not the case and it wasn’t true then and it’s certainly not true now.”
According to McDougall, one of the biggest learnings was disseminating the correct information to people who are likely to be on the receiving end of the disclosure and steps have now been taken to ensure this doesn’t go off the rails again.
“When there are reports of a sexual assault that come in to the various services or people on campus, I am routinely notified that something has taken place.”
READ MORE: How to identify sexual assault, abuse victims
In addition to the campus code of conduct, a policy document is being finalized internally to address sexual assaults. The stand-alone policy will more clearly define what is a sexual assault, what consent is and what is required for someone to give consent.
“This stand-alone policy will apply to students as does the code of conduct and disciplinary code but it will also apply to staff and faculty and anyone who visits or comes onto the campus for any reason.”
In the event of a sexual assault, a procedures document outlines all protocol that should be followed.
“The protocol for disclosing, what does the response look like, who is responsible for what activities after that happens, what are the options for a person who wants to report, keeping in mind that reports can come from targets themselves but reports can also come from other community members,” remarked McDougall.
The intention is to post the documents for campus community comment the week of Sept. 21, sexual awareness week. It will also be shared with the survivor and her family for input, be revised and then go to the board of governors for ratification and final approval in December.
“It’s very clear that these behaviours are prohibited we’re just want to make it abundantly clear.”