A new report released this week by Statistics Canada said more than one in 10 women studying at Canadian post-secondary schools were sexually assaulted last year in “a post-secondary setting.”
Statistics Canada found 4 per cent of male post-secondary students also experienced sexual assault in 2019.
The director of UBC Okanagan’s sexual violence prevention and response office Shilo St. Cyr described the numbers as “very upsetting” but not surprising.
“I think rape culture is so pervasive. The activities that normalize sexualized violence in our everyday activities allow for sexual violence to continue to happen in our communities,” St. Cyr said.
Locally, UBC Okanagan has an office dedicated to preventing and responding to sexual violence which provides education and supports survivors.
St. Cyr said that support ranges from facilitating academic concessions to helping the person move into new accommodation.
“We really let the survivor, the person who experienced the sexualized violence, let us know what they need,” St. Cyr said.
However, nationally it seems most post-secondary students who are sexually assaulted don’t turn to their schools for help.
The Statistics Canada report said fewer than one in 10 students who had experienced sexual assault spoke to someone associated with their school about the assault.
“It’s really terrible statistics. I think it just speaks to that we just need to do more, do better talking about this issue on our campus,” St. Cyr said.
“Society has (been) bombarded with so many news articles and media that blame the victims so it can be really scary to reach out and talk about it.”
St. Cyr said her office is running an awareness campaign this fall to combat victim blaming called the “We Believe You” campaign.
Meanwhile, UBC Okanagan’s student union would like to see a number of changes to the way the school addresses sexual violence including creating a more accessible plain language version of the university’s sexual misconduct policy and making consent training mandatory for students.
“If we start to educate people as soon as they come to UBC, we not only show a promise to create a consent culture at post-secondary institutions, but (demonstrate that) these are values that you have to have to be in a community such as UBC,” said Tashia Kootenayoo, the student union’s vice president internal.
The university said changes are planned, including creating a more accessible version of its policy document and adding more consent training.