The UNB/STU University Women’s Centre strives to promote a campus environment in which all people, no matter their gender identity, sexuality, race, ability or class can live and work in an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding, safety and equality.
In 2014, the province of NB reported 426 assaults to Statistics Canada and a recent Globe and Mail investigation reports that the province has the highest national rate of classifying sexual assault reports as baseless (unfounded). Reputable organizations report that of every 100 incidents of sexual assaults, only 8 are reported to police. A 2015 CBC investigation and Right to Information Request revealed that UNB had 11 reports of Sexual Assault in the 2009-2013 period, a rate of almost three per year and STU reported six assaults in the same period. These combined rates make over four reported sexual assaults on our campuses per year.
The recent results of the UNB Sexual Assault Climate Survey, released on January 19th, 2017, on the UNB’s blog, have, unfortunately, corroborated those statistics. Sadly, 40% of respondents to the Sexual Assault Climate Survey believe that they are at risk of being sexually assaulted and 50% believe sexual violence is a problem at UNB. In the survey, 89% of the declared victims of sexual assault were assaulted by people they knew, with 63% of the assailants being students.
The need for the new sexual assault policy
This survey follows the release of the UNB Sexual Assault Policy, quietly released in June of 2016. This policy was drafted and before the temporary secondment of Maggie Forsythe from the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre to the UNB campus, officially announced in October 2016 as the Campus Sexual Assault Student Advocate (CSASA) appointed to deal with sexual assaults at UNB and STU.
Predictably, the survey confirms the need for the Sexual Assault Policy. Over 52% of respondents don’t know where to get help at UNB and 61% don’t know where to report a sexual assault. These findings are alarming but are all situations that the Policy should be able to solve.
Unfortunately, UNB’s implementation of the Policy has not meant significant student education about the policy, the CSASA position or sexual assault in general.
UNB urgently needs to take action and ensure that students are aware of the sexual assault policy and other resources on campus.
The need for education on campus regarding rape myths
The “Rape Myth Acceptance” statistics in the survey underline the need for education about consent and power relationships in sexual interactions, in order to stop victim blaming when, clearly, the assailant is to blame for the sexual assault.
As UNBSU Women’s Rep, Shea MacLaughlin noted in a recent Facebook post that the Sexual Assault Policy Campaign committee #BreakTheSilence poster campaign trivializes sexual assault with its statistics about assaults and intoxication. The campaign also completely fails to educate students about the policy and the resources available.
The need for information and support
The survey also shows that sexual assault victims are overwhelmingly turning to their peers for help (friends, roommates or romantic partners). This reinforces the need for widespread training and instruction. Almost 59% of students want to do something about sexual violence but these people need to know what to do.
In December, the UNB/STU University Women’s Centre prepared a video, in consultation with the CSASA, explaining the steps to follow for sexual assault victims that was launched in December 2016. This instructive video has yet to appear on the UNB website.
Now that a CSASA is in place –and if/when her temporary position is made permanent, as requested by the UNB/STU University Women’s Centre in writing to the Presidents of UNB, STU and NBCC in December 2016-, she will be able to become the place to turn for information.
UNB needs to be more open and transparent about its efforts to end sexual assault on campus. The UNB/STU University Women’s Centre looks forward to the next survey. In particular, we need to see better results, which should be made possible now that the people and policies are in place. However, such improvements will not be achieved without clear education goals and a clearer commitment from the administration to improve the situation.
For more information, please contact the UNB/STU University Women’s Centre Executive at firstname.lastname@example.org.