Sexual violence survivor rebukes university report

Click to play video: 'Mount Allison University addressing sexual violence on campus'
Mount Allison University addressing sexual violence on campus
Mount Allison University says it’s addressing sexual violence on campus- nearly eight months after an independent review was launched. But on of the survivors who’s leading the charge for change says she’s lost hope that things will get better. Nathalie Sturgeon has more. – Jul 30, 2021

The woman who led the charge on exposing Mount Allison University‘s lack of comprehensive policy and resources to address complaints of sexual violence says she is disappointed with the report the university published this week.

Michelle Roy, a survivor of sexual violence, was appointed to be a part of the independent review the university commissioned in December 2020.

She said the experience began hopeful but turned sour quickly.

“It was long four-hour meetings that really I felt like I was just in the corner. Nobody cared about what I had to say … And discipline wasn’t really discussed as much,” she said.

“I strongly feel that this report is just giving the university more power and that nothing is going to change,” she said in an interview Friday. “I tried as hard as I could throughout the process to change their mind on it, but I just felt like I was never really listened to when it came to this side of things.”

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Roy said she felt dismissed and unheard.

The report says the university will implement several things in the fall. It said it will review and revise policies related to campus sexual violence, create a sexual assault response team, have investigative services provided through a third party, and have consent training for staff, faculty, and residence staff, among others.

For Roy, those policies are vague and are not good enough.

Protests held in November

Roy said previously that in 2016, in her first year at the school, a man sexually harassed her. After telling a friend, Roy heard she was not the first to be harassed by him.

At that point, Roy gathered several people who alleged the man assaulted them and went to the campus sexual assault centre to report him.

“We were basically coerced into writing an informal complaint,” Roy said in a previous interview with Global News.

With an informal complaint, Roy says there are barely any consequences for the person accused. “There’s no discipline … the person will usually just be given a consent class, which is really kind of useless,” she said previously.

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The individual was found guilty by the university, she previously said.

Once classes ended for the summer, Roy said she received news that the man had appealed the decision.

“The university just decided he was no longer guilty, so he was allowed back on campus,” she said. “That was the first story where I was completely flabbergasted,” she said.

At the time, Roy said people came to her with stories. People who had been victimized and saw no justice through the university system, she said.

She held a protest at the university in November, which was attended by more than 400 people.

Click to play video: 'Students, survivors dismissd from sexual violence working group'
Students, survivors dismissd from sexual violence working group

University prioritizes education and prevention

Anne Comfort, Mount Allison’s vice president, said the university’s immediate priority is education and prevention.

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“We feel the external review is comprehensive, fair, and will be an essential guide in our path for going forward,” she said in an email statement.

Comfort said developing specific policies out of the report will take time, including policies impacting the discipline of students in sexual violence cases.

“We know there is still work to do,” she said in an email. “We are reviewing all these reports and making concrete action plans to ensure our students have access to supports in addition to improved education and awareness.”

Comfort did not clarify what external parties might be involved in the investigative process or who would be on the sexual assault response team.

“We know we need to do better going forward; this review process is helping to guide next steps and make change, to work towards a best-in-class response to sexual violence response, education, and prevention,” she added.

It’s all little comfort to Roy, who says she continues to live with her trauma.

“The whole thing is extremely vague,” she said. “I mean, the policy coming into this was really vague, and I always say that is the reason the university purposely makes it vague, because if it is vague, they know what loopholes they can go with.

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“I just think this is the exact same thing.”

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