York U student files human rights complaint over...
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Jun 30, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

York U student files human rights complaint over poor support following sex assault

Lack of policies and protocols for dealing with sexual assaults on campus an ongoing issue at Ontario universities


A York University student who has made a human rights complaint against her school is alleging she was unsupported and discriminated against after she reported a sexual assault.

“York University discriminated against (Mandi) Gray as a woman and as a sexual assault survivor,” by failing to have clear policies and protocols outlining what a student can expect from the university if they are sexually assaulted by a classmate or staff, according to a complaint filed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on Monday.

Gray alleges she was assaulted by a fellow graduate student and teaching assistant early this year. When she tried to get help, according to the claim, the school’s response left her feeling “unsafe,” “unprotected” and “retraumatized.”

“This is not simply a York University issue, this is happening on every single campus in Canada,” said Gray, a PhD student in sociology, during a news conference at York’s Vari Hall on Tuesday.

York introduced its sexual assault policy in February, and the school’s sexual violence working group is expected to produce recommendations on the new protocols in early fall.

Rhonda Lenton, vice-president academic and provost, told the Toronto Star on Tuesday that York has yet to receive a copy of the complaint, and because of privacy concerns cannot discuss specific details about the students involved.

Lenton said the university makes every effort to work with and communicate with survivors of sexual violence and is deeply committed to incorporating any complaints or concerns into continuing policy discussions. Gray and her supporters have been invited to meet with the research group, Lenton said.

This fall, Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to introduce legislation that will require Ontario universities to adopt clear sexual assault policies and protocols.

In November, the Star reported that just nine of 78 public universities surveyed across Canada had a special sexual violence policy and protocol. In Ontario, at the time, just three of 20 public universities and no public colleges had special policies.

Ottawa University professor Elizabeth Sheehy said the basis for Gray’s claim is that “it’s a form of prohibitive sex discrimination to fail to have a policy, a practice and the resources specifically for sexual assault.”

Gray, said Sheehy, is “arguing that York is in violation of the human rights code for failing to put in place these kinds of practices, structures and policies, and she’s also saying her individual rights were breached in how they handled her complaint of rape.”

In the claim, Gray alleges that on Jan. 31, 2015 she was sexually assaulted by a fellow graduate student, and then struggled to find support.

“Gray was forced to review multiple York University policies, pamphlets, and website pages ... She did not find answers to her questions,” it states.

She met with school staff to discuss a security plan, but the solutions offered, the claim states, put her in the position of having to avoid the man she said sexually assaulted her, or endure having an escort rather than regulating his movement on campus. The school also failed to warn fellow students about the alleged attack, according to the claim.

At the conference, Gray said she had to discuss her assault with at least 15 people, from student groups and multiple levels of staff to campus security, and could not get a clear answer on what to expect.

Many meetings took place after her alleged assailant was arrested and charged with sexual assault, according to the complaint. A criminal trial is scheduled for February, said Gray. His lawyer declined to comment.

The claim states that the “trauma, anxiety, stress and burden of having to engage in self advocacy,” coupled with not knowing if she would have to see her alleged attacker, resulted in her taking a leave.

Toronto Star

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