FILE -- Lakehead University president Brian Stevenson speaks to media in this 2012 file photograph.
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The president of Lakehead University says he’s forming a task force in response to claims the school did little to help a student who reported a sexual assault by a fellow student.
Brian Stevenson on Monday issued a statement about an anonymous letter to the editor published in Saturday’s Chronicle-Journal.
Stevenson said he found the letter “deeply distressing,” and that while he can’t comment about the incident in question, the school promised it will take action.
“In response to the issues raised in the letter, this week I will appoint a task force to review the issues raised in the letter and the policies, procedures, training, and support Lakehead has in place and how they might be improved,” said Stevenson, who was not made available for comment.
“I will invite members of Lakehead’s senior administration, faculty, staff, and students, as well as members from the local community, to participate.”
The task force will be chaired by Lori Chambers, a professor at the university and chairwoman of the department of women’s studies.
“Its recommendations will be shared with the public to the extent allowed by privacy laws,” Stevenson said.
In her letter, the student says she was sexually assaulted off campus by a fellow student, who she’d been assigned to work with on a group project.
The alleged victim said she stopped by the male student’s house, was invited in and assaulted. The woman went to the hospital for tests, then contacted the chair of her program to see if she and her attacker were sharing any classes when the fall semester began.
“Instead I was told that I was responsible for my safety and that there was nothing they could do unless I made it a legal battle,” she says in the letter.
“He told me to use security services, including security escorts.”
She then turned to a woman in the school’s human resources department, who agreed to speak to the program dean on her behalf.
Once again she said she was told there was nothing the school could do for her.
“They have no policy or procedure for victims of sexual assaults.”
This past September the woman found herself in a class with her alleged attacker, where she said she was harassed by the man and his friends.
“Seeing his face every day, feeling his eyes upon me, and having him follow me from class was difficult. I eventually started hiding in the bathroom before and after class so that I would not risk him following me,” she wrote.
The woman went on to say that while she doesn’t blame the school for what happened, the school needs to put policies and procedures in place to deal with sexual assault victims.
“I do not want anyone else to go through the stressful, disgusting and degrading process I went through.”
Click here to submit a letter to the editor.