Settlement reached in human rights case between York U, victim of sexual assault

York University Keele Campus on March 3, 2015. Doug Gamey/Global News

TORONTO – A human rights case between an Ontario university and a sexually assaulted student has been settled, with the Toronto-area institution promising Monday to provide specialized counselling to those in its community who experience sexual violence.

Mandi Gray, the 28-year-old who launched the case against York University after being sexually assaulted by a fellow student, called the university’s pledge a positive development.

“I’ve been hoping that my story is able to provide a face to this issue,” she said in an interview. “I hope that I’ve provided some resources in terms of getting what you need to return to campus safely, and also provided some hope that there’s a life after sexual assault and it can be meaningful.”

Gray was sexually assaulted in January 2015 by another student – Mustafa Ururyar – who was found guilty of the crime earlier this year and is now appealing his conviction.

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Waiving a publication ban on her name, Gray went public with her fight for justice, emerging as a leading figure in the fight against sexual assault on Canadian university campuses.

In addition to her criminal proceedings, she filed a complaint against York University at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in June 2015, claiming the school lacked clear procedures for reporting sexual assaults.

Gray alleged in her complaint that by failing to have sexual assault-specific policies, procedures and protocols to respond to reports of sexual assault committed by its students and staff, the university discriminated against her as a woman, and as a sexual assault survivor.

In a joint statement issued Monday, York University and Gray said a settlement had been reached in the case.

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As part of the resolution, York said it will collaborate with sexual assault centres to provide specialized counselling to sexual violence survivors from the university community.

“York University strives to be a progressive institution that believes in social justice and respects Ms. Gray’s efforts to bring public attention to the issue of sexual assault and the treatment of survivors,” the statement said.

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Gray said the counselling promise that’s resulted from the settlement is a sign of progress.

“There’s not a lot of resources available following a sexual assault and there’s a lot of long waiting lists…having the necessary supports on campus is just one small step to some resolution or finding some sort of healing,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the be all and end all, or going to solve some of the major systemic issues, and that goes for all campuses, but I do think it’s a step.”

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Gray noted that some who have experienced sexual assault may not want to report their cases but still deserve to have some sort of support.

The settlement announced on Monday comes after York released interim guidelines in September for responding to sexual violence.

The guidelines included the introduction of a Sexual Violence Response Office and a policy that police would only be notified about alleged incidents with the consent of alleged victims, unless there is an imminent safety risk to the community.

Gray had taken issue with the new rules, saying they amounted largely to symbolic changes, and had said she would air her concerns at a mediation session with the university organized by the human rights tribunal last month.

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She had alleged that the Sexual Violence Response Office, for instance, did not have sufficient staff with specific expertise to deal with disclosures of sexual assault.

She also said all students, including those who may have experienced alleged sexual assaults and are involved in the legal system, should have access to counselling services at the university.

Other terms of the settlement in the human rights case between York and Gray are confidential.

The joint statement on the settlement also noted that the resolution does not constitute an admission of liability by York or a concession by Gray of her case.

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