Survivors come first
MRU’s new sexual assault policy focuses on those affected by the crime
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
At the beginning of this month, MRU’s Board of Governors approved a new sexual assault policy that focuses on encouraging survivors to come forward.
The response and awareness program has four main components, all prominently outlined on Mount Royal’s website. This includes a response team focused on supporting those who come forward, education and awareness, making information available to students, reporting and complaints.
“The new sexual violence response policy sets a tone that at Mount Royal University we support survivors,” says Cari Ionson, MRU’s Sexual Violence Response and Awareness Coordinator. “This policy will provide survivors with a responsive institutional framework so that if they are impacted by sexual violence, their concerns will be responded to effectively.”
The ‘support for survivors’ approach is one that universities have been increasingly pressured to adapt in the past few years. In April of 2016, The Globe and Mail reported on research revealing that over 90 per cent of sexual assault cases are not resolved through a formal process.
Stand-alone policies are important because they help to make those who have dealt with sexual assault feel supported when coming forward.In January, the University of Calgary also began taking steps to implementing a stand-alone sexual assault policy focused on supporting students, but haven’t finalized a new policy yet.
“I think the timing is right. The conversations about sexual violence and sexual assault are becoming more prevalent, and not because they are necessarily happening more, but because people are feeling more supported than ever before to share their experiences and access the help they need.” Says Shif Gadamsetti, SAMRU President. “With prevalent rape culture dominating the discourse for so long, one can understand not only how daunting, but potentially shameful and increasingly traumatic, it could have been to come forward and try to access help.”
Ionson, via Mount Royal’s new Sexual Violence Response & Awareness page on their website, writes, “Dating, domestic and sexual violence can have many far reaching impacts on a person and a community. It is a pervasive concern that the Diversity and Human Rights Office takes seriously by working to support survivors in finding healing and justice, and promoting a community of consent, care and respect.”
Not only does the new policy define a support system for survivors of sexual assault, it also outlines the importance of creating an informed campus community. The education and awareness component of the policy focuses on workshops about dating and sexual violence, recognizing prevention as an important piece of the puzzle.
“Ultimately policy is only a piece of paper and will only go so far if it is not taken into attitudes and beliefs of the people at Mount Royal,” Ionson says. Education and awareness is important to have in the policy because we cannot be only responding to instances of sexual violence, but we have to make sure that as a community we are doing our very best understand the issue.”
Mount Royal is also hosting a Sexual Violence Response Policy information session on March 22nd. Here, students are invited to come and participate in an informal talk about the new policy to help students further understand how it has changed.