Second student says Brandon University silenced her after alleged sexual harassment
Published Wednesday, April 6, 2016 10:37PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 7, 2016 9:53AM EDT
A small Manitoba university is under intense scrutiny this week after a second student came forward alleging that the school tried to silence her after she was allegedly sexually harassed by a faculty member.
Former Brandon University student president Carissa Taylor says she was sexually harassed by a faculty member in 2013. When she brought her complaint to a senior administrator, she says she was told that filing a report “isn’t going to be in your best interest.”
“Their response was, ‘You’re in a position of leadership, you’re a woman, this is something that happens and you just need to learn how to deal with it.”
The university says it is unaware of the complaint and encourages Taylor to formally bring it forward.
The new allegations come one day after the university’s president acknowledged that the school had asked a student to sign a “behavioural contract” stipulating that they wouldn’t speak publicly about an alleged sexual assault in 2015.
“We acknowledge it was not helpful to the survivor,” Gervan Fearon, president and vice-chancellor of the Manitoba university, told reporters.
But the problem is more widespread, according to a campus group called We Believe Survivors, which says eight more alleged victims have come forward in recent days.
“It’s been an overwhelming response of anger and frustration with the silencing of students here on campus,” said Stefone Irvine, who helped organize a protest.
The president admitted that the “behavioral contract” was a mistake and says the school “categorically” encourages survivors of sexual assault and harassment to come forward.
Experts say that statistics on sexual assault and harassment generally go underreported at Canadian campuses. At Brandon University, only one incident has been made public in the last six years.
Taylor left Brandon for Brock University in southern Ontario, where a case strikingly similar to hers was revealed last month. An investigation by Brock University revealed that a professor sexually harassed a student. The victim was told to keep the incident quiet.
“This wasn’t just a problem for me, this is a problem that exists for other people as well,” Taylor said.
Brandon University is among several Canadian post-secondary institutions currently crafting new policies on sexual violence. Fearon says a committee has been established to review university policies on sexual assault “across Canada.”
In Ontario, recently passed legislation requires universities to have policies on sexual assault in place by January 2017 and to properly investigate and report incidents. The policy must be reviewed every three years.
Similar bills have been brought forward in B.C. and Manitoba.
With a report from CTV’s Jill Macyshon