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UBCO creates offices to address sexual assault

As part of its new sexual assault policy, UBCO’s new offices will be open in September

As part of its latest sexual assault policy requirements, UBC Okanagan will create two offices to provide students and staff with resources.

Last April, the B.C. government required all universities, colleges and institutions to create policies to address sexual assault.

UBCO student union president Blake Edwards sits on the sexual assault policy steering committee and says UBC and UBCO started developing a policy before the government’s mandate.

“It’s been a growing concern across the country and across North America and there has been a large push from students,” said Edwards, adding the aim with the sexual assault policy is to fill in the gaps where current policies are lacking.

“A majority of the time the law is against the survivor,” he said.

The sexual assault policy is expected to be approved by the board of governors on April 14.

“Because sexual assault and sexual misconduct happens quite frequently, we do have a lot of things that we’re already doing, but we don’t have a centralized system,” said Edwards. “On our campus, a lot of it is through our security office and the person who is really spearheading it right now is not necessarily an expert in sexual assault.”

Associate vice-president, student Ian Cull, said there will be two offices to serve students, faculty, and staff who have experienced sexual misconduct.

“The first office will be a support services centre and it will provide support for people who have experienced sexual assault and that will encompass a variety of services (such as acting) as a liaison for other campus services like counselling, security, and housing. The second office is an investigation office responsible for investigating.”

Currently, sexual assaults fall under the non-academic misconduct policy, which has received criticism for being not survivor and trauma informed.

“It was written for things like theft and vandalism,” said Cull.

The university aims to have the offices up and running in September.

From 2014 to 2016 the number of reports of sexual assaults on the UBCO campus were relatively few to both the university and the RCMP. Last year the university received three complaints while RCMP received one.

However Cull said it’s hard to know the number of sexual assaults that actually take place as people may report them in different places or not report them at all.

April is sexual assault awareness month.