UNB introduces first sexual assault policy
Published Thursday, June 9, 2016 8:12PM ADT
The University of New Brunswick released its first official sexual assault policy on Thursday.
After years of calls from students, faculty, and advocates, there are no longer questions of where, or who to turn to after incidents occur on campus.
The university has been working on the policy for over a year, and while there is some concern over how easy it is for students to read and comprehend, many are relieved and happy with the policy overall.
Advocate Hannah Gray experienced an incident at the beginning of the winter semester in her first year of university. Gray says she walked into a residence room and found a friend being sexually assaulted by a male student.
Gray says just like other students, she had her own ideas about welcome week – a time when students are supposed to be made to feel like the university is their new home, and a place where they’ll become comfortable.
“You think it’s a place that is safe and so is everything about the community spirit,” says Gray. “Then you walk in and that’s being violated, that’s horrible. Then you go on, and you find out that it’s really common? It’s heartbreaking."
Gray says after that experience, she thought they did everything right – go to the hospital and report the incident to university officials.
However, there was little action taken on behalf of the situation, and her friend was forced to continue to see her alleged assailant in class, the hallways of residents, and all over campus.
“He went on and got an honours degree, graduated from St. Thomas University, and everything was great for him.”
Meanwhile, Gray says her friend's mental health deteriorated and she had to leave school.
Since then, Gray has fought for sexual assault policies and procedures for students.
She says sexual assault knows no boundaries – it’s something that happens on campuses across Canada.
“Certainly it’s become an issue on campuses that people are highly sensitised to,” says Shirley Cleave, the associate vice-president of academics at UNB. “All of that complicates the writing policies, because it’s not just the mechanical process. There are a lot of emotions involved.”
Overall, students are pleased with the policy, but say its language needs improvement.
“Right now it’s written as a policy,” says Travis Daley, the president of UNB's student union. “Moving forward, we need to assure that our students feel as though they can comprehend everything in it.”
UNB says this is its first version, and acknowledges that it will likely have to refine the policy as it moves forward. In the policy, it states the university must review it after four years.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown