Campus catch-up: Sexual assault at UBC

Students at the University of British Columbia were shaken this Friday by news of another sexual assault on their campus after a year of sexual assault controversies.

A string of assaults occurred at UBC in 2013, according to a CBC report, with several of these incidents involving the same assailant.

The assailant from Friday’s assault hasn’t been connected to the 2013 assaults, nor is he a student, according to UBC’s student newspaper The Ubyssey. Global News reported that the perpetrator is a known sex predator familiar to police.

The 20-year-old female victim was walking along a main avenue of campus at around 10 p.m. Friday night when an unknown man emerged from a wooded area and grabbed her.

The student was shoved to the ground, but was able to fight off her attacker. She received a single open-handed blow to the head and sustained minor bruising.

In the two days leading up to the assault, five separate reports were filed indicating that there had been a man of similar description seen in some of the all-female residence buildings on campus. The suspect was seen lurking around female showers and residential rooms.

Following these incidences, an email was sent out to the university’s 10,000 students living on campus to warn them about the intruder. The email encouraged students to take precautions when walking through campus and assured them that the RCMP’s university detachment was  investigating the matter.

However, the email gave no indication that students could possibly be in danger of sexual violence.

Members of the UBC community, including students and a history professor, expressed discontent about the university’s response to those first five intruder reports. An independent review determined that university policies weren’t violated in the report process, but found that delays and miscommunications had occurred.

UBC is in the process of developing a standalone sexual assault policy. The university hopes that by implementing this new policy, incident reports will be processed more effectively and the number of sexual assaults on campus will be reduced.

Until the policy is approved, UBC has taken steps to implement a number of safety measures on campus, including physical improvements such as better lighting and increased video surveillance. An ad hoc safety group, called the Campus Safety Working Group, has also been created. 

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