Believe the victim now school district policy
New sexual assault protocol developed with other agencies
A new sexual assault protocol for the Central Okanagan School District starts with the premise that a youth reporting an assault is telling the truth.
The new protocol includes a flow chart for how to respond to a report of sexual assault, starting with believing the youth reporting the assault.
“To mitigate the impact of trauma, all youth who disclose sexual violence are to be believed and supported,” it states.
The protocol has been developed with the RCMP, Elizabeth Fry Society and Interior Health.
It aims to provide a co-ordinated community response to sexual violence against youth in the Central Okanagan.
“Student safety is a top priority for the district,” said superintendent Kevin Kaardal. “The trauma that exists for those affected by sexual violence requires that the community respond in a caring, thoughtful and supportive manner.”
Work on the protocol began about a year-and-a-half ago.
After the assault is reported, the flow chart moves on to assessing medical need and determining if the victim needs immediate medical attention or not.
If contacting emergency services is not required, the chart indicates the next step is to share resources for non-emergency medical services and assess the safety of the survivor.
The chart goes on to indicate when a referral to the Elizabeth Fry Society or to the RCMP may be necessary.
Some of the goals identified in the protocol include developing clearly defined actions and responsibilities to respond to and prevent future sexual violence, ensuring an immediate and supportive response to disclosures of sexual violence and facilitating collaboration between agencies to support those affected by sexual violence.
“We believe that all community members of the Central Okanagan have a shared responsibility to dispel harmful attitudes, beliefs and behaviours regarding gendered roles and sexual violence,” the protocol states. “We are committed to building a safe environment that promotes equality, consent and respect.”
The role of the school district is identified as providing safety for the survivor in the school setting, providing internal support and counselling to the survivor and the accused youth, protecting the survivor and the accused from any bullying related to the sexual assault, and providing referrals to appropriate community services providers.
“It’s about us knowing that with young people in our community, these things can happen and do happen, and working with our expert partners in the community to provide all the supports we can,” said Kaardal. “These aren’t just one-moment events . . . they impact people’s lives for many years to come.”
The role of the Elizabeth Fry Society is identified as believing, supporting and empowering sexual assault survivors and non-offending family and peers, providing safety planning for at-risk survivors, providing emotional support, counselling, resources and information to survivors, and providing referrals to community service providers.
The role of the RCMP is identified as treating both the survivor and the accused youth with compassion, dignity and respect, assessing risk and providing protection to the survivor as needed, conducting a thorough investigation of sexual violence to recommend charges to Crown counsel, and providing referrals to appropriate community service providers.
The role of Interior Health is identified as providing mental-health services to the survivor and the accused youth, and providing referrals to appropriate community service providers.
The protocol will be subject to periodic review every three years or earlier if necessary.