Federal cash for sex assault support will help at rural universities: advocate

The Trudeau government says about 40 per cent of sexual assaults are reported by students

The funding included in Tuesday’s federal budget for sex assault centres at universities and colleges will especially benefit victims on rural campuses, according to one B.C. advocate.

Caitlin Salvino, chair of Our Turn, a national student group working to end sexual violence on campus, says many smaller post-secondary institutions still don’t have a designated place for students.

“Community resources often have over a year wait list,” Salvino said. “Those are even more inaccessible for universities in rural regions, who aren’t able to fund their whole centre.”

The Trudeau government has promised $5.5 million over five years for crisis centres on university campuses, as they move towards creating a national framework to combat gender-based violence. According to budget documents, nearly half of all sexual assaults reported in Canada have been committed against women aged 15 to 24. About 40 per cent were reported by students.

READ MORE: Sexual assault policies take effect on B.C. campuses

Students who have been sexually assaulted and do not have a support service to turn to on campus have to travel to the nearest city to meet with medical and counselling staff, Salvino said, adding those those clinics sometimes lack protocols for dealing with students.

A sexual assault crisis centre does more than just provide support to victims, she said. The staff, counsellors and volunteers also run prevention campaigns and educational discussions.

“These one or two people have specific training, and a lot of experience to deal with these subjects and people who are really vulnerable,” she said.“Universities that don’t have these centres are run by people who don’t have that training.”

Crisis centres ‘chronically underfunded’

Last year, Our Turn released a report card that scored major universities from A to D based on its policies for students.

UBC, which already had its independent policy implemented, received a B+ and was above average compared to universities such as Carleton in Ottawa, McGill in Ontario and the University of Regina.

“There are a lot of criticisms at large universities,” Salvino said. “Big campuses are chronically underfunded, as well.”

She said a centre would ideally be located in a central place on campus, would allow students to disclose assaults or harassment at all times, give students access to counselling upon reporting, and offer an emergency fund for students who need to make changes to their accommodations either in dorms or off campus.


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