Be­lieve the vic­tim now school dis­trict pol­icy

New sex­ual as­sault pro­to­col de­vel­oped with other agen­cies

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE - The Okana­gan Week­end By AN­DREA PEA­COCK

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.

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