'We're so late': Students at U of M say sexual violence policy badly needed

'We're so late': Students at U of M say sexual violence policy badly needed

Students at the University of Moncton are pushing the school to adopt a policy on sexual violence after a student was targeted by a malicious email campaign.

The campaign was sexual in nature, with the university having confirmed thousands of emails sent to students and staff since the weekend.

Although much of the focus has been on how the perpetrator could have been able to steal the electronic identity of the student association, or the university itself—among others, to send his malicious emails.

But Sarah Grandisson, a social work student at the university, says the real concern is the victim's well–being.  

"I don't think it's about cybersecurity or anything," said Grandisson. "It is sexual violence. And we want to focus too on the fact that the university doesn't have the resources to give to the victims."​

Grandisson is one of eight people on a committee working to create a policy on sexual violence at the university, something she said is long overdue.

"We're so late," she said. "That policy should have been there six years ago. It's just that the students they were talking about it, but the administration they didn't see the need for it."

In recent years, universities across the country started opening sexual assault centres on campuses, making it easier for victims to report incidents and get the help they need.

Grandisson hopes the University of Moncton can do something similar.

She believes at least one in four women on university campuses have experienced some form of sexual violence.

"It's happening. It's here," she said. "I think it's just not reported enough."

Campuses 'battlefields' for discussions

Beth Lyons, executive director of the New Brunswick women's council, says that after an incident like this one, the university needs to assess whether to make any institutional changes.

She said looking at putting in place a sexual violence policy is a good first step.

"Any place that is invested in gender equality should be looking at having policies that respond to the whole range of sexual violence," said Lyons. "Which goes right from harassment all the way up to acts of actual violence."

"Campuses are often sort of the battlefield that a lot of these discussions take place."

The committee, which is made up of Grandisson and staff members, has been meeting twice a month since January, and hopes to have services in place sometime in the fall semester.