Sexual assault policies are now in effect at all universities in B.C., making it the second province in Canada to have a stand-alone protocol.
Universities across the province were required to have one implemented by May 18, as mandated by Bill 23.
The bill, initiated by BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver passed last March. Since then, universities have been toiling on their new rules.
For Thompson Rivers University graduate Jean Strong, this week brings a sense of assurance that students who are sexual assaulted or harassed won’t be quieted.
“I hope the policies are effective in protecting students and giving them the help they need should anything happen to them,” she said.
“I also hope they give students a greater sense of safety while attending university or college, that the school should now have the means to support them well.”
Three years ago, Strong was sexually assaulted twice in the same semester. Upon reporting it to university staff, she says she was told she should transfer schools.
“It was suggested I transfer to Queen’s or Carleton — any university that was not TRU,” the now-22-year-old wrote in a blog post a year ago.
She joined efforts with Weaver and together formed Bill 23, called the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act.
Moving forward, Strong said she hopes the conversation doesn’t end here. The universities need to ensure the policy isn’t just words in a handbook, but actually used to protect vulnerable students.
“I think people sharing their stories in a public way created real change across the province and having policies in place is a fantastic step,” she said. “But there is a lot more work to do to ensure safety and support, for example ensuring the policies are effective, implemented, changing as needed and are a part of a wider effort to change campus cultures and how people think about assault on campuses and elsewhere.”