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The Low Sex Assault Rates Reported By Canadian Universities Are Probably Bullshit

Unfortunately, it's just not possible that 16 schools have had zero incidents.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
November 23, 2015, 7:12pm

York University has been accused of mishandling sex assault reports. Photo via York University.

A sexual violence survey sent to post-secondary institutions across Canada has found that 16 schools have zero reported incidents over the last six years, a number survivors advocates say is troubling.

The survey, conducted by CBC News, reached out to 87 colleges and universities. Of the 83 that provided complete data, 16 had no sex assault reports on record dating back the last six years. In total, the schools had 224 incidents on record—a staggeringly low rate of 1.85 reports per 10,000 students considering one in three women in Canada is expected to experience sexual violence.

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"I would say that is a concerning result," Lenore Lukasik-Foss, director of the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton Area told VICE.

"That absolutely does not mean sexual violence is not happening on those campuses. It just means that institution does not have a system through which it's easy for survivors to disclose, or they are disclosing but there's no way to track them."

Because not all campuses have formal protocols to deal with these complaints, if a victim, for example, talks to a professor about an assault to have an assignment deadline pushed back, there's not necessarily going to be any record of that conversation.

York University and the University of British Columbia, which recorded 11 and 9 sex assaults in 2014, respectively, are currently facing criticism over allegedly mishandling sex assault reports.

York PhD student Mandi Gray, 27, filed a human rights complaint against the school after she disclosed that a fellow student had raped her and said she was subjected to intense bureaucracy including "six months of daily emails, phone calls, and self-advocacy to have my safety needs met."

"We report, and our reports are not taken seriously, or we don't report and feel silenced," Gray, who founded a group called Silence is Violence, told VICE. "There is no winning."

At a press conference on Sunday, a UBC grad said she was taking the school to the province's human rights tribunal because it failed to act after she filed a sexual misconduct complaint in 2014. She said she'd witnessed one student inappropriately touching another on several occasions. Another student said it took the school 18 months to follow up on her complaint of sexual assault.

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"UBC's chance to do the right thing is over. Clearly they have zero interest in the safety of women," said Glynnis Kirchmeier, the history grad who filed the complaint.

The school's interim president has since issued an apology to victims who feel let down.

Lukasik-Foss said college-aged women are at "very high risk" of being assaulted. "We would anticipate that sexual violence is happening in all campuses across Canada."

Six schools from Quebec were among the 16 that reported zero sex assaults, including École de technologie supérieure, which told the CBC "we have no statistics on this and have never had this type of incident on campus."

The remaining ten schools are Victoria's Camosun College, Capilano University in North Vancouver, University of the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, Concordia University of Edmonton, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Red River College in Winnipeg, Brandon University, and École des hautes études commerciales in Montreal.

Ryerson University had the highest number of reported incidents in 2014, 21, followed by Dalhousie University with 20.

Earlier in the year, the Ontario government revealed a plan to tackle sexual violence on campus, requiring schools to implement standalone policies on how to respond to reports. The Manitoba government recently proposed a similar strategy.

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