Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
Lakehead University says it has developed groundbreaking policies to deal with sexual assault issues.
Lakehead University says recommendations from its sexual assault task force will take effect immediately.
President Brian Stevenson formed the Task Force on Sexual Assault Education, Prevention and Support last October after an anonymous student said was sexually assaulted by a classmate.
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.”
The task force's recommendations were approved earlier this month. Task force chair and Women's Studies professor Lori Chambers said the letter highlighted a problem that universities are facing across North America.
"This made the institution sort of stop and think what do we need to do to improve our policies so this will never happen again," she said.
Recommendations include a new policy for faculty and staff when a student reports sexual misconduct so that they know what their obligations are. Chambers said it will also ensure that the student is treated with respect and dignity and be accommodated academically.
The school will also now have a human rights officer. Chambers said the policies are ground-breaking and all universities should adopt something similar .
"There shouldn't be any reason for people not to know what the prohibited behaviours are on our campus," she said.
Stevenson said some steps will begin immediately while others will be developed over time.
"Our hope is that it will go a long way in preventing these kinds of incidents," he said.