Campus Security has added a statement to security alerts to emphasize that victims of sexual assault are not responsible for the actions of their attackers.
The statement begins with “a victim of a crime is not responsible for a perpetrator’s actions.”
Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club (CASE) president Emily Leedham said past security alerts implied the responsibility to prevent assaults lay with the individual.
“If you tell students it’s their responsibility to keep themselves safe you also imply that if something does happen, it’s their fault — that they should have been more aware, they should have taken more precautions,” Leedham said.
Leedham said this contributes to victim-blaming, which can prevent survivors of sexual assault from reporting crimes.
According to Statistics Canada, only six per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police.
“Survivors don’t feel that they will be taken seriously or that they will be blamed for what happened to them if they talk about it,” Leedham said.
Last year's SU social work representative Jamie Zarn started a petition to add the disclaimer to security alerts. CASE signed it, and when Zarn went to Henry with the petition he reached out to Leedham. Henry then started meeting with Campus Security.
“Everyone has a right to feel safe on campus and that is the main focus of [the new statement],” Henry said.
Security alerts are emailed to members of the U of C community following the report of a serious crime. Six alerts were sent out in the last year. All incidents were of a sexual nature, including two sexual assaults.
The new statement appeared in a security alert for the first time on July 31. A man “exposed himself” and “made a verbal request” to a woman near a pond on West Campus Boulevard.
There were 10 criminal sexual offences reported to Campus Security from January to July this year. Seven incidents of criminal sexual offences were reported in 2013.
Campus Security director Brian Sembo worked with University Relations on the statement.
“I think it’s an improvement and certainly if anyone thought [blame] was being focused on the victim that was never the intent,” Sembo said.
Leedham said she’s pleased with the changes, saying the new security alerts are a positive step in changing the way sexual assault prevention is discussed.
“We need to take a much more active role in preventing [sexual assault] — not just sitting back and waiting for it to happen and trying to avoid it. That all starts with changing the language we use to talk about the situation,” Leedham said.
The office of the provost asked that the statement include a sentence which encourages “students, faculty, staff and visitors to please be mindful of personal safety both on and off campus and to be alert when walking alone.”
Deputy provost Kevin McQuillan stressed the importance of being mindful of your environment.
“I think that is something we should be reminding people of on a regular basis and it makes sense for it to be in the messages we send out to the campus,” McQuillan said.
Contact information for the SU Wellness Centre and the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault is provided in the statement.