In a month's time, students who have been sexually assaulted will be able to access rape kits on the University of British Columbia campus—rather than driving or taking the bus 20 to 30 minutes to the Vancouver General Hospital.
After a year of sharp criticism for how it handled reports of a serial sexual offender on campus, the university has become the first in the province to offer rape kits on campus.
The kits will now be available at UBC's hospital from 8 am to 10 PM, seven days a week.
A decision by the BC Ministry of Health back in the spring led the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) to expand its services to the campus hospital, the centre's manager Ashley Bentley tells VICE News.
"It's going to create a lot less barriers for students to access these services on campus," she said.
The SASC has seen a sharp increase in the number of people accessing rape kits recently, which Bentley attributed to more awareness of services and less shame around reporting the crime. Though support for survivors has increased, Bentley warned there is still more work to be done.
Rape kits, also known as sexual assault evidence collection kits, are packages of tools, swabs and storage bags to collect evidence of a sexual attack—including DNA—within seven days. The evidence is crucial for criminal cases in which the accused says they don't know the complainant, and DNA evidence can disprove that line of defence.
Across Canada, access to rape kits is spotty, with sexual abuse victims forced to travel long distances in some areas in order to access them. While the BC Women's Hospital says there are 63 facilities in BC that offer rape kits, critics who work on the sexual violence front lines say it's one of the worst provinces for access to the kits.
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