CUPE Local 1356 Blog

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1356. We have three Collective Agreements as Local 1356, 1356-01, and 1356-02. The membership is comprised of the full-time and part-time workers of York University the Local website is at This Blog will include Local information and information garnered from sources other Universities, Colleges, Post Secondary/Tertiary Education and news sources supplying information.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sexual Assaults at the University of Saskatchewan

The Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CASA/UofS) is a group of
parents, faculty, staff, and students who came together in response to
the two recently reported sexual assaults at the University of
Saskatchewan. We would like to share some of our recent experience, in
the hope of initiating a 'discussion' among PAR-L participants about
sexual assault on university campuses and to swap 'best practices' for
those creating positive change in the face of intransigent, patriarchal
structures such as university administration and the media.

Sexual Assaults at the University of Saskatchewan:
The Coalition Against Sexual Assault Fights Back.
University campuses are the second most unsafe places for women -
the home is still the first - and the University of Saskatchewan is no
exception. Last November one of our students was sexually and violently
assaulted by a complete stranger in a women's washroom on campus. This
assault was the second on the campus in a matter of a few months - at
least, of those reported (we know that only about 10% of all assaults
are reported). The other stranger assault occurred in broad daylight
and less than 100 feet from one of the main streets in town, while the
victim, also a student, was performing her duties as a summer employee
for the University. Both assaults were very violent. These two women
are alive today, only because of the enormous courage and resilience
that both of them showed in the face of the attacks.
A few months following the second assault, a front-page story
appeared in our local newspaper, the Star Phoenix. The story strongly
insinuated that the victim had fabricated the story of her assault.
This has been absolutely devastating for the survivor and her family, as
well as having the effect of silencing woman who may come forward in the
future and furthering the illusion that our campus is safe. The
insinuation flies in the face of the facts: there is DNA evidence of the
rape, there are medical reports, and there are obvious physical injuries
sustained by the victim. There was no follow-up story, which is rather
surprising for a front-page article with a 15-square inch headline. The
reporter claims that the information he reported re: fabrication came
from a credible source, but won't name his source. We investigated the
possibility of making a complaint to a press council, but quickly found
out there isn't one here in Saskatchewan. So failing any formal
channels of redress, our Coalition drafted and collected signatures on
an Open Letter to the journalist and the editor of the newspaper - see
After collecting and submitting many signatures to the newspaper, we
then asked for a meeting with the Editorial Board. They refused our
request, but did grant us a ½ hour meeting with the two editors of the
newspaper, with the stipulation that there be only 2 members from our
Coalition. During the meeting the editors continued to support the
reporter and the story, and would not release the identity of "the
source" for the article. The upshot of the meeting was that we
submitted, and they agreed to print, an 850 word piece on why women
don't report and how the system fails them when they do - see below.
We consider their agreement to print our piece to be only a very
small concession on their part - in many ways, the damage has already
been done, and is very hard to reverse. We continue to search for
avenues of redress for this particular injustice and to raise public
awareness in general about the unacceptably high social and individual
costs of sexual assault. We invite PAR-L participants to engage in a
discussion about initiatives with similar aims underway on university
campuses and in other sites across the country.

An Open Letter to Darren Bernhardt and Steven Gibb, The Star Phoenix,
April, 2004
The article titled "Campus Rape Probe Dropped" that appeared in
March 23rd's second edition of the Star Phoenix clearly implies that the
November sexual assault victim fabricated the incident. This
insinuation is extremely disrespectful, highly irresponsible, and
potentially dangerous.
First, it creates a false sense of security for women on campus.
The article was printed at the beginning of exams when students spend
even more time at the university and often, late at night. Given that
the November assault occurred during first term finals, there could be
no worse time for such an article to be printed.
Second, this type of journalism sends a strong message to victims:
reporting a sexual assault carries the risk of being publicly labelled a
liar. Research shows that very few women register formal complaints.
If delivering the news in the style of a tabloid remains unchecked, even
fewer will be inclined to come forward.
Finally, Bernhardt's disregard for facts and evidence, his lack of
sensitivity, and his slant of re-victimization suggest to perpetrators
of these violent crimes that it is open season on university women.
We, the undersigned, ask that you act responsibly by retracting this
article and by issuing a public apology to the victim and to the campus

________________________________ ________________________________

Sexual Assault: Women lose faith in the system
by Tracey Mitchell and Liz Quinlan on behalf of the Coalition Against
Sexual Assault / University of Saskatchewan, printed June 10, 2004
Each year huge numbers of women are sexually assaulted. More than
one-third of Canadian women have experienced at least one sexual assault
since the age of 16. Saskatoon's Sexual Assault Centre confirms a
20-per-cent increase in the number of face-to-face or over-the-phone
counselling sessions in the past year. Yet, few victims report these
crimes to the police. Thus, more perpetrators are free to re-offend.
Many victims do not report because of embarrassment or fear of
reprisal by the perpetrator; others have no trust in the justice
system's ability to act in their interest; still others suffer from
self-doubt and self-blame, wondering if they somehow deserved the
violence. It is little wonder that few victims report sexual assault.
When they do, they encounter a system that often fails them,
re-victimizes them, or, worse, doesn't believe them. Some say in
retrospect that, if they had known what was ahead, they would not have
reported. For those who report and whose assailant is apprehended and
charged, another aspect of the intimidating system awaits: the courts.
Of all violent crimes, sexual assaults take the longest to move through
the courts, so the victim hangs suspended, waiting for closure.
Although perpetrators are able to secure legal council to represent
their interests before and during the trial, victims have no right to
their own legal representation. The only woman the Crown prosecutor is
hired to represent is the Queen.
Two-thirds of sexual offenders are repeat victimizers, often with a
pattern of escalating severity and frequency. Serial offenders commit
an average of eight sexual assaults before being apprehended. If we
could identify and bring perpetrators to justice the first time, we
could save up to seven other women the horror of being sexually
assaulted. Part of the solution is to improve police investigations by
making better use of DNA technology. The average turnaround on the DNA
analysis from the RCMP laboratory in Regina is four months, giving the
perpetrator ample time to re-offend. In the Paul Bernardo case,
securing the DNA results took more than two years, during which time he
committed four more rapes and two murders. The demonstrated apathy of
the system sends the message to women that we, as a society, do not take
the crime seriously. That apathy also tells men that the consequences of
sexual assault will likely be negligible. When policing methods are
improved, women's faith in the system is restored and reporting rates
rise. As a result of implementing better DNA testing measures in recent
years, Louisiana saw reporting rates increase by more than 250 per cent.
When women have reason to believe the police are on their side and
something can be done to stop sexual assaults, they will apparently report.
The majority of women, however, are attacked by someone they know,
which presents additional problems. They often face immense pressure
from friends and family to remain silent and not press charges. In
coming forward, they risk having their stories doubted and other serious
consequences within their social circles.
The social and individual fallout from sexual assault is enormous.
Sexual assault reinforces the antiquated belief that women are
acceptable targets for male aggression. Many victims internalize this
message and are left with feelings of shame and low self-esteem. Some
victims of this crime are killed; others suffer horrendous psychological
trauma. Many lose the sense of personal security that most of us take
for granted. They come to live with residual fear, always looking over
their shoulder. The assault is not just on the victim. Secondary
victimization is a broadly recognized psychological condition, as the
crime draws friends and family members into its vortex. Many victims,
and those closest to them, get pulled down so far that they never again
surface to participate fully in their jobs, relationships and community.
For many, to regain their footing and put their lives back together is
too overwhelming.
In addition to its personal and emotional effects, sexual
assault creates a serious financial burden for both the individual and
society. A single instance has a price tag of more than $110,000 when
expenses of medical care, property loss and damage, social services, and
loss of income and quality of life are considered. The health-care
expenses alone cost Canadian taxpayers $1.5 billion annually. Not only
are there compelling ethical and psychological reasons for working
vigorously to eliminate this crime, but we all stand to gain financially
by reducing its incidence. We need fresh, imaginative solutions. If our
institutions continue to discourage women from reporting, re-victimize
them when they do, and exclude them from the process of finding justice,
such solutions will continue to elude us.
Through public education, we can create a social climate in
which jeopardizing women's safety and integrity is simply unacceptable.
Then, we will all enjoy immense benefits, many of which are not
quantifiable and some of which even exceed the capacity of our current
collective imagination.


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