Sexual Assault: Discourse & Dialogue overview

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Sexual Assault: Discourse and Dialogue was held over two days on Feb 15 & 16, 2016

The faculty-led Sexual Assault: Discourse & Dialogue 2016 was held on February 15 & 16, 2016 to discuss how UBC can move towards positive, timely, and effective action on sexual assault policy.

The event provided an opportunity for faculty, graduate students and staff to consider various issues raised by sexual assault and sexual assault policy in the university context.

Event organizers included UBC professors Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins and Alan Richardson from the Faculty of Philosophy with support from VP Students and the Equity and Inclusion Office.

A list of recommendations from the event is included below, as well as links to Jennifer Freyd’s keynote presentation on institutional betrayal.


Summary Day One – February 15 – Discourse

Approximately forty faculty members, graduate students and university administrators attended the February 15 event. Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins started the day by outlining that the focus of the event was on understanding the depth and breadth of research and expertise that exists at the University and how it can be used to improve the current situation.

On February 15 the emphasis was on presenting research and community resources.

Research Presentations

UBC faculty members made presentations related to their research in the field. Presenters included Tal Nitsan, Scott Andersen, Jonathan Ichikawa, Juliet O’Brien, and Brandy Wiebe.

Community resources

Janet Mee, Director, Access & Diversity and C.J. Rowe, Diversity Advisor, Student Development and Services made a presentation on Sexual Assault Intervention and Prevention Education: Developing UBC’s Three Year Plan.

UBC has developed a number of new resources for the University community. These include:

  • UBC Sexual Assault Response and Support Protocol – designed to ensure the UBC campus community has the information and tools to respond appropriately and provide support for members of the community who have been sexually assaulted.
  • Sexual Assault Reporting Options, Including the UBC Non-Academic Discipline Process – a resource for student survivors of sexual assault as they consider their options for reporting.
  • Assisting Student Survivors: A Resource for Faculty and Staff – a one-page printed resource designed to help faculty and staff members have a respectful and supportive conversation with a student who chooses to disclose being sexually assaulted.

More information: https://facultystaff.students.ubc.ca/sexual-assault-response-and-education

Sara-Jane Finlay, Associate Vice President, Equity and Inclusion discussed the findings of the Paula Butler report. Read the executive summary report.


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Dr. Jennifer Freyd (far left), and photos from the table discussions

Summary Day Two: February 16 – Dialogue

Keynote: Addressing Sexual Assault: Moving from Institutional Betrayal to Institutional Courage
Professor Jennifer Freyd, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon

For over 20 years my students and I have investigated the impact of betrayal trauma (such as abuse perpetrated by a trusted other) on victims, discovering in the process that interpersonal betrayal is particularly toxic to individuals.   More recently we have conducted empirical research on the impact institutional betrayal has on individuals within institutions, with a focus on institutional response to military and campus sexual assault.

Both our laboratory and campus research indicates that institutional betrayal can exacerbate the harm of sexual trauma.  For instance, sexually-assaulted students who were treated poorly by their institutions show significantly greater levels of dissociation, anxiety, and other trauma-specific symptoms. We have found heightened effects for LGBT-identified students compared to heterosexual students and we have also uncovered some of the specific mechanisms by which universities currently fail to prevent sexual assault and cause additional harm to victims.

Our research reveals areas of institutional policy and practice that could and should be targeted for improvement so that we can move from institutional betrayal to institutional courage.

Although Dr. Freyd’s presentation on February 16 was not taped we have included a video from Dr. Freyd’s presentation at the annual meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, on April 25, 2014.

Additional Resources:
Freyd’s February 16 presentation slides Addressing Sexual Assault: Moving from Institutional Betrayal to Institutional Courage link to pdf

Visit Freyd Dynamic Lab website for more information about her research: http://dynamic.uoregon.edu


Facilitated table discussions

Participants broke into groups to discuss several themes. The notes taken during these discussions are being transcribed and will be included on this website soon.

  1. Survivors’ Experience After Assault and Disclosure – Facilitator: Ashley Bentley, Manager, Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC)
  2. Policy (Rights, fairness and transparency) – Facilitator: Shirley Nakata, Ombudsperson for Students
  3. Process (Community Inclusion) – Facilitator: JP Catungal, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  4. Policy and Culture Change – what does a culture of respect look like? – Facilitator: Jude Tate
  5. Resources – Facilitator: Rachael Sullivan, Equity and Inclusion Office educator
  6. Education – Facilitation: Janet Mee, Director, Access & Diversity
  7. Process (structure and organization, development) – Facilitator: Frances Chandler, Director of Research Support Services, Dean’s Office, Sauder School of Business

At the close of the event participants gave  their insights and recommendations which are included below.

Insights and Recommendations

Education and Communication to the community

  • Develop Education Plan – 5 to 7 year plan – want to put in place resources that will help us develop our mandate as a learning community and develop a web of resources and educational programs that will change the culture of the people that are part of this community and do that in a way that will echo beyond UBC.
  • Educate faculty – levels of knowledge and sustainability – requires an active process.
  • Administrative/legal with the ethical – processes need to be communicated in ethical terms and that commitment to our community needs to be stated and re-stated.
  • Keep in mind that the university is a community with a lot of shared interests – wellbeing and success of our students. Keep our educational mission in mind at all levels and in all conversations.
  • It’s really about the practices we bring into the cultures of this university and it isn’t one culture, there are many cultures. Should be thoughtful and pragmatic when we are talking about culture shift. Target conversations for shifts within the units.
  • Nucleus of people – email us whether we want to be communicated with – email network/listserv for updates and information sharing. Arrange for opportunities to meet.
  • How do we pitch the positive vision of what we want this campus to look like? Important to affirm safety/security but need a positive vision of what education is like, what the community is like at UBC. How can we affect that by getting rid of something that is endemic?
  • Keep the pressure up. Continue the conversation. Updates about what is happening.

Policy-development

  • Policy needs to be explicit to the obligations to support survivors and rights of the respondent in due process.
  • Policy – ongoing and long term
  • Create evidence-informed policy.
  • Create a budget for research and data/info gathering on this topic to inform policy. Not just immediately but the evolution of the policy as we understand more of what is happening.
  • Policy won’t solve the problem of sexual violence and a policy can only do so much. Institution has to weigh the legal circumstances in which a complaint has brought forward. This will always show the limitations of the policy.
  • UBC as an institution might advocate to have all policies/programs be viewed through the impact it will have on sexual violence.

Consultation methods

  • As the administration to take up the Freyd challenge – to ensure that if we do this survey, how would we use that information? Evidence may not only inform policy.
  • Use different methods to communicate with different members of our community. E.g. survey data may be a successful way of communicating with some.
  • Conduct ARC3 Survey
  • Diversity of tactics – methods for getting the various constituencies that make up our community. Surveys are one form of quantitative research but also other knowledges, eg. Focus groups, etc. Access a better rounded picture of views.
  • Shift institutions response from legal to one of ethics of responsibility of care, student’s rights. Student-centric.
  • Tools – steps
  • Culture – ongoing and long term
  • Allow people to give feedback in multiple ways including events like SADD.

Resources

  • Increase funding for resources: The resources are here but they don’t have the money or support to do what they need to do. Give these resources more money!!!!
  • Create resource map – provide good access to who does what and a reference for survivors and responders – living document on the web.
  • Provision of material resources to make things possible.

Including Students in the Process

  • Students will feel like they don’t want to participate in events like this because they feel things won’t change or their voices won’t be listened to.
  • Need more input from students. An event like this should be organized at the student level – half day or 1 day. Discuss freely what they want their role to be in the writing of this policy. Provide resources for them to discuss their vision of their role in writing the policy. Pledge that they will be involved in the writing of the policy. Checks and balances?
  • Students who want to be involved may have difficulty overcoming a feeling of isolation
  • Community resources and education – we need to enable incoming students to see us as a community and as part of a community. Facilitate smaller spaces for them. Small classes of 25-30 students. Relationship development.
  • Call out to get students involved – clear language and accessible. Poster campaigns, through AMS and GSS.
  • When students do university work (e.g. support work) they should be reimbursed.
  • Involve students and get feedback and then communicate back to them about what is going to happen, what is going on, what is the current status?

Building trust with community

  • We need to recognize the levels of distrust that exist in terms of our ability as an institution to write and implement a good policy. Need to build trust at every level in this process. Imposition without trust building will be destructive.
  • Be clear about what outcome we’re trying to achieve by having a policy. What is the vision for our community?
  • Building trust – assurance that a transgression of the policy will be dealt with in some way that is apparent so that we’ll trust the policy and the university.
  • Transparency around decision-making.

Survivor-centric approach

  • Bring survivors to the table explicitly to understand experience (or not) of the systems (or not). Important to see survivors as being part of the policy formation to build trust.
  • Supporting peer networks so that they can support survivors.
  • Approach from trauma informed, survivor-driven perspective. Language clear and accessible and not full of jargon.
  • We should remain vigilante the university doesn’t become so effective at managing complaints of sexual violence that complainants are not encouraged to pursue it through the criminal justice system. Advocate for victims to access the criminal justice system.

Funding

  • Funding should be available to everyone not just faculty funding.
  • Strategic initiative fund – apply for grant funding.

Recommendations from these discussions will inform the creation of a sexual assault policy and long-term action plan for the University.

A survey was distributed to participants following the event. Comments and feedback from the survey will be posted on this page soon.

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