'State­ment of sol­i­dar­ity'

On­line pe­ti­tion call­ing for changes to St. F.X.’S sex­ual vi­o­lence pol­icy

The Casket - - Front Page - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­ket.ca

Close to 2,500 peo­ple have added their voices to a call to change St. F.X.’S sex­ual vi­o­lence pol­icy.

The or­ga­niz­ers of an on­line pe­ti­tion are pleased with the early re­sponse.

“There is a lot of sup­port from the com­mu­nity,” fourth-year stu­dent Han­nah Moore said Oct. 17.

Since launch­ing the pe­ti­tion Oct. 15, re­sponses have come not only from St. F.X. stu­dents but also from fam­ily and friends from across Canada.

The pe­ti­tion – St. F.X. and Sex­u­al­ized Vi­o­lence: Calls to Ac­tion, which can be found at https://chn.ge/2ck­rxfu - de­mands the “re­con­struc­tion” of the pol­icy to one that is “sur­vivor cen­tered and trauma ed­u­cated,” Moore said.

She added it should be cre­ated by in­di­vid­u­als “who have the knowl­edge and the ex­per­tise to cre­ate a sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence pol­icy.”

“They should be in­clud­ing stu­dents in the process and those who have lived ex­pe­ri­ence and can speak to that and can con­trib­ute that to the pol­icy,” Moore said.

Speak­ing out

On Oct. 13, dur­ing an an­nual open house for prospec­tive stu­dents and their fam­i­lies on the Antigo­nish cam­pus, more than 40 pro­tes­tors de­liv­ered their mes­sage to St. F.X. pres­i­dent Kent Mac­don­ald.

“I did a brief open­ing ad­dress of my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with this school and just voiced gen­eral frus­tra­tions from the stu­dents of how we have to keep on protest­ing against that,” Kaitlin Dry­den said.

“How sur­vivors have to come for­ward and an­nounce their sto­ries, in or­der to be ac­knowl­edged or heard - not only by the ad­min­is­tra­tion but also by the com­mu­nity - which is re­ally emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing.”

Af­ter be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted as a fresh­man, the fourth-year stu­dent said she re­ceived lit­tle or no re­sponse from school ad­min­is­tra­tion on the three oc­ca­sions she raised her con­cerns.

Dry­den said the pro­tes­tors out­lined the ‘calls to ac­tion’ found in the pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing the need to pro­tect and in­form sur­vivors through­out the en­tire re­port­ing process, while de­vel­op­ing a com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan for sur­vivors and the cam­pus com­mu­nity.

“Our hope with the pe­ti­tion is to show how the gen­eral cam­pus is feel­ing – a state­ment of sol­i­dar­ity, of sorts, but then also pro­pose some changes that need to be made and put for­ward, and have the uni­ver­sity rec­og­nize that ev­ery­one is on board and they need to get on board as well,” Moore said.

Stand­ing up pub­licly

The group’s de­ci­sion to voice con­cerns dur­ing the open house was de­lib­er­ate, she added.

“We felt like it was a time where our con­cerns would be

heard and ac­tu­ally ac­knowl­edged and that we could place our­selves there and they couldn’t turn us away any longer,” she said.

The protesters in­cluded not only St. F.X. stu­dents but also fac­ulty, staff and com­mu­nity mem­bers.

“There has been a lot of sup­port and it means a lot, and it helps the move­ment along and it gives you en­ergy to keep on go­ing,” Moore said when asked if they have re­ceived any neg­a­tive re­sponse in tak­ing that step.

Dry­den noted that “some peo­ple didn’t think it was right; that we in­truded on the open house.”

“To that, I say there have been so many times where we have pub­licly stood up to the ad­min­is­tra­tion and they have still ig­nored it, so we needed to choose a space that they couldn’t ig­nore it any­more,” she said.

‘We can do bet­ter’

Calls for change height­ened af­ter The Cana­dian Press re­cently re­ported a stu­dent found re­spon­si­ble for an al­leged sex­ual as­sault last fall was back on cam­pus, pend­ing an ap­peal.

The stu­dent who brought the charge for­ward was not in­formed by school ad­min­is­tra­tion that he was back at the uni­ver­sity. Af­ter learn­ing of the sit­u­a­tion, she with­drew from St. F.X. and re­turned home.

The ac­cused, who still faces crim­i­nal charges, has since with­drawn from St. F.X, which Mac­don­ald an­nounced in an Oct. 12 let­ter to the cam­pus com­mu­nity on the St. F.X. web­site.

“I ac­knowl­edge and ac­cept the fact that we can do bet­ter,” he wrote.

Along with his de­ci­sion to have the “stu­dent in ques­tion” leave ST.F.X., Mac­don­ald said he has asked for a re­view of word­ing in the school’s dis­ci­plinary code as it re­lates to ap­peals.

He added there will also be an up­date pro­vided on the con­nec­tion be­tween “our rel­a­tively new Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Pol­icy and the uni­ver­sity’s Code of Con­duct.”

“We re­main com­mit­ted to be­liev­ing and sup­port­ing peo­ple who dis­close that they have ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual vi­o­lence,” Mac­don­ald wrote.

“We rec­og­nize and hon­our their courage and re­silience, and re­spect their rights to make de­ci­sions that are in their own best in­ter­est.

“How­ever, we must con­tinue to de­velop and im­prove our poli­cies and in­ter­ven­tions, in or­der to truly suc­ceed in achiev­ing the goal of a vic­tim/sur­vivor­fo­cused ap­proach.”

In this par­tic­u­lar case, Mac­don­ald said, “there were clear gaps in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ap­par­ent is­sues re­lat­ing to our ap­peal pro­cesses that neg­a­tively af­fected our uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity and, in some cases, re­trau­ma­tized vic­tim/sur­vivors.”

“For this, I am sorry,” he added.

Mac­don­ald said, in the com­ing weeks, uni­ver­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion will “en­gage with our broader com­mu­nity to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties

to in­form our re­view process.”

Await­ing re­sponse

Dry­den and Moore hope that en­gage­ment in­cludes a re­sponse to the con­cerns their group has raised through the protest and on­line pe­ti­tion, some­thing they had not re­ceived from uni­ver­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion as of Oct. 17.

“I think, im­me­di­ately, we need a re­sponse from the uni­ver­sity; they have ac­knowl­edged noth­ing of what we have done, which is re­ally dis­heart­en­ing and con­cern­ing,” Moore said.

“I think they are just not ad­dress­ing what is go­ing on and stu­dents’ voices, even though they claim – in the me­dia – to be lis­ten­ing to the stu­dents. They are not.”

Sam Mac­don­ald

X-men de­fender Josh Read soars for a header against Dal in AUS ac­tion against Dal on Oct 13. Although the X-men out­shot Dal, the game ended in a 4-0 loss for St. F.X.

Corey Leblanc

Fourth-year St. F.X. stu­dents Kaitlin Dry­den (left) and Han­nah Moore are mem­bers of a group that has launched an on­line pe­ti­tion call­ing for changes to the uni­ver­sity’s sex­ual vi­o­lence pol­icy.

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