Dismissed and soon forgotten

We were talking about a series of sexual assaults that occurred at the University of Saskatchewan.

Recall that at least five incidents had been reported at U of S in the course of 4 months; the most recent involved a violent attack in a campus utility room back in November. The victim in that attack, a young woman known only as Eden, enlisted the support of other students and parents from across Canada and managed to compile a petition of over 1,000 signatures demanding that the University conduct an independent audit of the School’s safety procedures. In early February the University capitulated, agreeing to allow outside professionals to come onto the campus and conduct an external review of campus safety standards against those of other universities across the country.

The story should end here, with this one small victory. Unfortunately, from here it only gets worse.

Shortly after the University agreed to the external review, Eden received a threatening email urging her to, “stop it now before things get worse.” In addition, police have now made statements that they don’t believe her story; they think she imagined the attack, or possibly that she was consensual in the incident.

Eden has since left the University of Saskatchewan. She has dropped out of university and gone home to live with her parents.

That’s all you get for putting your integrity on the line? A one way ticket out of town and the chance to move back in with mom and dad? I thought Eden was deserving of a medal.

Eden’s misfortune reminded me of a similar situation that occurred in 1997 at West Virginia University (with thanks to Melanie Jarvis)…

A young woman is raped on campus. She goes to a sex clinic where a rape kit is administered. The girl’s parents appeal to the school’s public safety officers, but the officers state that there is nothing they can do; the girl was a consenting adult. Rumors circulate that the alleged offender is well known to campus police, and a student. The school does nothing.

Eventually school officials agree to meet with the girl. At the meeting the school’s lawyers ask her “if she had an orgasm” during the encounter. The case is given an obligatory pass-over by a prosecuting attorney; the attorney dismisses the case as “unwinnable”. The case atrophies. It eventually is forgotten. Seven years later, the student dies. Her mother refuses to discuss the details of her death.

Shun victims. Shut them down. Exile them back to their hometowns. But in so doing we miss the lesson in their painful experience

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