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UBCO student concerned about university’s handling of sexual assault report

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WATCH: This fall the Kelowna RCMP apologized for mishandling a sexual assault complaint, but long before the complainant went to the police the UBC Okanagan student first sought help from the school. The student is now speaking out about how the university investigated her report, alleging sexual assault by a fellow student. The woman says the school's process felt biased and didn't live up to its own policy. – Dec 20, 2021

This fall the Kelowna RCMP apologized for mishandling a sexual assault complaint, but long before the complainant went to the police the UBC Okanagan student first sought help from the school.

The woman, who Global News is not identifying due to the nature of the allegations, is now speaking out about how the university investigated her report alleging sexual assault by a fellow student in 2019.

The woman says the school’s process felt biased and didn’t live up to its own policy.

Read more: Woman who made complaint about Kelowna RCMP wants ‘accountability for people who cause more trauma’

After going through the university’s investigation process she was left with a host of concerns.

The woman told Global News she feels like she was inappropriately pressured by a school investigator to move into mediation after the respondent requested it.

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“I said, ‘As long as I’m saying he did it and he is saying he didn’t, I don’t understand what agreement we could come to.’ They were trying to push me into doing this mediation. That wasn’t my idea. By their own policy that shouldn’t have happened,” the student said.

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The policy in place at the time of the investigation said the school’s Director of Investigation could suggest this type of alternate process, but it was entirely voluntary and the policy doesn’t mention respondents initiating requests at all.

The school policy has since been updated to say an alternative resolution process will only be considered at the complainant’s request.

As the investigation continued, the woman’s concerns mounted.

“Multiple times during my statement I was asked very inappropriate questions like, ‘Why didn’t you push him off?’ or ‘Are you sure you said no? Oh, so you only said no once?’ Questioning my experience in a not trauma-informed way,” the woman said.

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Ultimately, well after the 60-day timeline set up by the school policy, the investigator filed a report stating the respondent did not sexually assault the complainant. The woman questions the definitive language.

“It was kind of a slap in the face to read the full investigation document with everyone’s accounts of the event and then have them say there is not enough evidence so it didn’t happen. Rather than there is not enough evidence so we can’t further provide consequences they just said ‘yeah, no it didn’t happen,'” the woman said.

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She says the delays in the case also left her feeling like the process was biased.

“Almost every delay was related to the respondent’s request for delays,” she said. “There were a lot of exceptions that were made in favour of the respondent.”

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The school’s report says the delays were to accommodate both parties.

Upset with the process and the outcome, the complainant said she felt like she was left with no recourse as the school’s policy only allows the respondent to appeal if they don’t agree with discipline against them.

“If he was upset with how it happened or he was upset with the final decision, he has the right to appeal but I don’t, which doesn’t seem survivor-focused or trauma-informed at all,” she said.

In response to a detailed list of the student’s concerns and a request for an interview, the university sent Global News a statement saying it can’t comment on individual students for privacy reasons and detailing the services it provides to respond to allegations of sexual violence.

Read more: Sexual violence survivor rebukes university report

The school says its investigations office conducts impartial investigations that are non-adversarial and use a trauma-informed approach.

The woman’s concerns have caught the attention of school officials, though. The school’s investigations office told her it is reviewing issues she raised about the process and material from the initial investigation.

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In a recent email to the woman, a university vice president also said she was “very sorry to hear of [the student’s] experiences.”

Read more: ‘It’s an access to education issue’: Why more needs to be done about sexual assaults at schools

Throughout the UBC process, the accused denied sexual misconduct took place.

After initially mishandling the case, the RCMP ultimately recommended the prosecution service consider a charge of sexual assault.

Crown counsel has yet to decide whether to lay a charge.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, help is available.  

Find resources and information on the Elizabeth Fry Society website, on the Ending Violence Association of Canada site

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