We should be outraged about the instances of sexual violence on college and university campuses.
One instance, anywhere, is one too many. But when our sons and daughters go off to university or college it’s often the first time they are on their own. As they start their adult lives, and they have every right to feel safe on campus. As parents, we expect nothing less.
It’s difficult to overstate the negative impact rape and sexual violence has on its victims. More than traumatizing, it’s one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. It leaves scars that last a lifetime, sometimes making even the healthiest of relationships difficult, many years after the fact.
Unfortunately, too many victims don’t always know where, or how, to look for help. Far too many stay quiet, convinced that nothing can be done. But that only makes the problem worse because a rapist’s best friends are silence, shame, and the failure of authorities to recognize a complaint.
This past week, we took a step in the right direction by tabling legislation to make campuses throughout B.C. safer and more responsive to the needs of victims of sexual assault.
Currently, public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia are not required to have policies that specifically address sexual violence, misconduct, prevention initiatives, or complaint response procedures. The Sexual Violence and Misconduct Act will correct this oversight and ensure colleges and universities have a clear and understandable policy to combat sexual violence on campus.
The Minister of Advanced Education, Andrew Wilkinson, will be working together with all 25 public post-secondary institutions to develop a framework to address a wide range of acts from voyeurism and distribution of images to harassment and sexual assault.
I want to give credit where it’s due. Andrew Weaver, the leader of the provincial Green Party, brought this idea forward and worked with Minister Wilkinson to make it happen.
He and Minister Wilkinson both recognized the need to ensure that students who find themselves subject to sexual violence or harassment get the assistance they need – and are never discouraged from reaching out for help.
In a perfect world, we’d address sexual violence by preventing it from ever happening in the first place. Until we can make that happen as a society, we need to make sure we reach out to victims and give them the supports they need. This week was a crucial step in the right direction.
If you have experienced sexual misconduct in any form, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I encourage you to seek out support – it’s the first and necessary step towards healing.
Premier Christy Clark is the Liberal MLA for the Okanagan riding of Westside- Kelowna.