New Sexual Assault and Misconduct Policies to Help Fight Rape Culture on Campus

KPU’s recently passed policies will focus on protecting students and supporting survivors of sexual assault
Ashley Hyshka

Sexual assault is an unnerving topic for many people. On university campuses, its existence and consequences couldn’t be clearer.

According to a CBC report, there were 16 reported cases of sexual assault at UBC between 2009 and 2013. However, a freedom of information request revealed that there were actually a total of 70 cases at the university in that time. There were nine reported cases at SFU, and two reports at BCIT. Capilano University and Kwantlen Polytechnic University reported zero cases.

Last year, to address the issue of sexual assault on university campuses, the B.C. government introduced the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, which mandates post-secondary institutions to implement a policy to deal with sexual misconduct, prevention, and appropriate responses before May 19, 2017. KPU implemented theirs on April 22.

The policy encompasses everyone at KPU from students to faculty to the administration, and covers any form of sexual violence transpiring on university property.

To UBC psychologist Ingrid Sochting, having acceptance and support systems such as this policy on-campus is crucial for a survivor’s recovery.

“The trauma will always change you,” says Sochting. “But we can look at that event as another chapter in the whole long book of our lives … We’re gonna close that chapter, as opposed to you sort of being stuck, and never getting on to the rest of your life.”

The policy explains that survivors of sexual assault shouldn’t refrain from seeking recourse through criminal or civil proceedings. But doing so isn’t always easy, KPU criminology professor Mike Larsen says.

“A fear of revictimization” is one crucial reason why victims don’t come forward, according to Larsen. Another reason is because they’re terrified of being interrogated, testifying in court, and recounting their assault.

Victim blaming and rape culture causes survivors to refrain from reporting; something the KPU and KSA policies seek to change.

“Pernicious, destructive rape myths [exist] throughout the process, and I think that also factors into rates of reporting,” he says.

For Natasha Lopes, the former Women’s Representative with the Kwantlen Student Association, passing the new policies is a long-awaited victory. Lopes offered criticism of KPU’s policies and wrote the KSA’s own sexual misconduct policy, focusing the document on education and awareness. She believes that advocacy is the cornerstone of changing how people view sexual assault, especially on university campuses.

“Misogynistic views hurt not only women, but men, because men are the children of women,” she said. “In order to have a wholesome conversation about sexual assault and consent culture, you need to include men.”

Lopes adds that educating students on consent and rape culture is the only way to end campus sexual assault, and that the KSA is planning to help.

While she was working as Women’s Representative, Lopes unexpectedly became a confidant for many students on-campus.

“Students [were] coming up to me, disclosing that they’d been assaulted,” she says. “I don’t even think you can sum it up in words. The way I look at the world, the way I look at feminism, and the way that I look at outreach and advocacy … everything has changed.”

In conjunction with the new policies, current KSA Women’s Representative Caitlin McCutchen is planning a consent campaign she hopes to launch in fall 2017.

“The fundamental reason why sexual assault happens on campus is because rape is normalized,” says McCutchen. “I’m proud we have definitions of what rape culture and what consent culture are [in our policy].”

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