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The need for a comprehensive sexual assault policy at SFU

Members of the SFU community need to come together to ensure we have a policy that protects and believes survivors

tiffany-chan-sexual-assault-support
Image Credits: Tiffany Chan

SFU’s sexual violence policy consultation

After failing three survivors of sexual assault in the past year alone, it’s fair to say SFU has a lot to learn about sexual violence policy.

Following reports of the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria mishandling allegations of sexual assault, the BC government introduced a bill last spring that mandated all post-secondary institutions implement a sexual assault policy by May 2017. Simon Fraser University currently has no official policy in place, but has been drafting one that will  be reviewed by the University’s Board of Governors this February.

The working group for the sexual assault policy at SFU is comprised of frontline people with considerable experience, as well as an advisory group, which is comprised of graduate students, faculty, and staff creating guiding policy principles. Consultations on the policy have been open to students, but attendance has been disappointingly low.

“Students think that, ‘It’s not an issue that affects me.’ Aside from those who are survivors and activists, we haven’t had any other students show up,” said Charis Lippett, Graduate Student Society representative on the advisory group. “There’s the assumption that someone is going to these consultations, so someone will go and somebody else will fix it. But this is a policy that is going to affect everybody at SFU.”

According to Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) VP external relations Christine Dyson, “the point of the student consultations is to have students share their thoughts on what they would like to see included in the policy.” Raising awareness and involving students in composing the draft has been a high priority for the university since the consultation process began in May of this year.

Jonathan Driver, former VP academic and provost, is one of the people responsible for putting this draft together. “One of the purposes of the new policy will be to ensure that there is clarity about how the university will respond to reports of sexual violence and misconduct,” said Driver. He believes it will “make it easier for anyone to report or disclose an incident, to get help, and to understand what options are available to them as a survivor.”

So what’s going on right now, other than the consultations?

As for how cases of sexual assault are currently dealt with at SFU, there are a few options available to make personal disclosures and reports. One readily accessible resource is SFU Security Services.

Julie Glazier, director of community safety and personal security advisor, noted that anyone involved to any degree with SFU can come forward and use these resources. Even if a survivor has no affiliation with SFU, “we’ll do an investigation on anything that’s brought forward and requested to be investigated upon.” Though, she noted that a survivor with no ties to SFU may not be eligible for Health and Counselling Services.

However, one important detail mentioned by Glazier is that if the perpetrator of sexual violence has no affiliations with SFU, the security office will not have legal grounds to investigate them. “If somebody works just somewhere in the Lower Mainland, we wouldn’t necessarily have investigative oversight on that. Getting them to come in, give a statement, that would be entirely a police investigation, as opposed to either a police or university or both.”

Whether you want to report an instance of sexual assault or just discuss your concerns with someone, Glazier said the Personal Security Office is a good place to start. She commented that you don’t have to commit to requesting an investigation just by coming in. People are encouraged to come to disclose their experience, seek assistance, or request an investigation. “It’s really driven by the survivor as to what path they want to take and what they want to have happen,” Glazier added.

Some suggestions that were brought up were the possibility of a separate sexual assault centre at SFU. A working group for a Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre (SVPSC) is currently developing the logistics for doing so in the future, and they were unable to provide comment for The Peak as of publication time.

“After the policy has been completed, we will go back to the community to get their feedback. We want to be prepared, not scared,” explained Larissa Chen, SFSS president. “We want explicit examples of what support [for students] would look like.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the policy may do so by email (input@sfu.ca), anonymously via online form or at SFU’s Health and Counselling Services, or in person by attending a discussion group held on campus. Additionally, the feedback received by the university thus far can be reviewed online.

How to support survivors

We live in a culture that undermines survivors’ value and self-worth. Practices like victim blaming place shame on the survivor and make them feel that what happened was their fault. It is crucial, then, to support them and prioritize their agency in moving forward and healing from trauma. Here are the steps on how you can do so:

 

  • Tell the survivor that you believe them. Thank them for sharing their story and let them know that you see them and believe them. Far too often, if they get up the courage to disclose what happened to them, they are dismissed and not believed. All it takes is this simple status to validate their feelings and experiences. Reassure them that what happened was not their fault and they are not to be blamed in any way.
  • Inform the survivor about the resources and options that are available to them, and ask them about which next steps they may want to take. A survivor may choose to report the incident or may choose not to, and that decision should be respected regardless. “Because reporting does involve RCMP, SFU can’t do much as they can’t interfere with the investigation, and we need to make that process clear,” said Chen. “We do have to comply with the investigation, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continually check in on the survivor to make sure they’re safe.” The SFU Women’s Centre, Health and Counselling, and Campus Security are also resources that are available, but it is worth noting that students may have also had negative experiences with services.
  • Check in with the survivor and ask how you can best support them moving forward. Support can manifest itself in many different ways, from offering a shoulder to lean on, to giving a person space if they need it. Part of respecting a survivor is asking them what support is needed from you.

 

Options at SFU to seek assistance or report sexual misconduct

  • Campus Security: 778-782-4500
  • Personal Security: 778-782-8473 or safe@sfu.ca
  • Health and Counselling Services: 778-782-4615
  • Police: 911
  • SFSS Women’s Centre: 778-782-3670
  • Out On Campus: 778-782-5933
  • SFU Employee and Family Assistance Program: 1-800-663-1142
  • Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW)
    • 24-hour crisis line: 604-255-6344
    • Toll free: 1-877-392-7583
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