author: taylor balfour | news writer
What needs to be fixed, and how do we move forward?
Sexual assault is a difficult topic to discuss. For anyone involved in the conversation, it’s a difficult one to hold. The conversation, however, is the first step toward improving, and that is what the University of Regina has just undergone.
“Our Turn is a mobilization of student groups across the country that started at Carleton University,” Roz Kelsey, the Direction of Gendered Violence Prevention at the U of R, explains.“They were not happy with their sexual assault policy, they tried to give feedback to administration, they felt like they weren’t getting anywhere, they didn’t feel as though they were heard. Changes weren’t made to their satisfaction, so they said ‘well, maybe we need to do something a little bigger and maybe we need to start speaking to other schools to see if they have the same problem.’”
Fourteen groups, meaning 14 universities, signed on to have their policies looked up and graded. The University of Regina was one of them.
Across Canada, the average out of the participating schools was a C-. The University of Regina got a D+. On the opposite end, Carleton University walked away with a B-, one of the highest scores found throughout the examination.
“One of the things that I found was that this is a much bigger project. I think people are under the perception that this is a project that only really undertakes a review of policy when actually it takes on much more,” Kelsey explains, talking about Our Turn.
“A sexual assault policy is only one piece of that, but actually what it was was a policy and procedure and accessibility. So, I think they did a great job with providing a resource for people who are interested in knowing more about this.”
Kelsey also claims that, while grading schools, they took a lot of intricate aspects into account.
“One of the things that they do a great job of is talking about intersectionality, about the idea of rape culture as a Canadian phenomenon on campuses and in the greater population,” she explains.
“One of the indicators on that policy is ‘do you use that term rape culture in your policy?’ You may not use rape culture but you may use the definers of rape culture, which two of the major ones are that we normalize sexual assault, sexual violence, and gendered violence in our communities, and that we often times focus and blame the victims.”
Stats Canada released a report in 2014 regarding self-reported sexual assault in the country. According to their study, “there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians aged 15 and older in 2014” which averages out to around “636,000 self-reported incidents of sexual assault.” This, however, isn’t including those who choose to not report.
Bettering the school’s policy, which is due for revision and review this year, Kelsey says is more complicated than it may seem.
“It’s very complex. Where does procedure fit into this? What does that procedure look like?” she explains.
“Another thing I find very challenging is trauma informed response would dictate that agency needs to remain with the survivor.”
Providing the best possible options for a sexual assault survivor is more than assisting them in one way. Each survivor will want things done differently with varying comfort levels.
“If you have a victim of sexual assault that comes forward and discloses, we need to be able to provide a whole myriad of options for this survivor so that they can decide what they need in order to reclaim that power that’s been taken away from this sexual assault. That, to me, is essential,” Kelsey continues.
“Oftentimes, that looks very different for a lot of people. Some people want to tell you a secret and don’t want anybody else to know, and that gives them a sense of safety,” she continues, furthering her explanation.
“Some people want to be able to do a report, keep it on file, but they don’t want anything done with it. Some people want a formal report, some people want to go to the police, some people want just support and don’t want to do anything. It all depends on what people are ready for.”
“There isn’t one way to do this,” Kelsey explains.
“That’s what makes the procedure so complicated, and the biggest thing that I’m determined to do in this role as Director of Gendered Violence Prevention, is to make sure that we provide training so that we can understand what the protocol is in terms of providing the best support to our students.”
Earlier in October, an anonymous blog entitled “Fix RPS” was published detailing the story of someone on the U of R campus who was sexually assaulted and threatened with a hunting knife. The incident reportedly took place in February 2016. The blog details the lack of support the victim claimed to have received from campus security, Regina Police Service, and a Regina hospital.
“You respond by believing it,” Kelsey explained in response to the story.
“You respond by going, ‘we need to do something to address this’. We need to reach out. My response to that, is I want to help.”
The haunting story is yet another reminder as to why students must remember that sexual assault is not a problem of the past, and is an issue that needs to be continuously fought.
In addition, as of October 23, the blog post has since been deleted by the anonymous author.
“As the Director of Gendered Violence Prevention, it is my job. Right now, my job is to make sure that you’re okay,” Kelsey continues, referring to the survivor of the blog entry.
“The first thing we need to do is say, when someone goes through something like this, we need to support them. And I want to.”
“If there is a way that my office can support this survivor, I want to do that. If this is a student of ours, I need to make sure they’re okay.”
Roz Kelsey’s office door is always open for those who wish to stop in and speak, in the Centre for Kinesiology, 164.1.