Police take issue with Dal’s internal sexual assault protocol
Police and women’s centre officials discuss Dal’s unclear sexual assault flowcharts
February 13, 2014, 12:16 PM ADT
Last updated November 1, 2014, 6:06 PM ADT
Dalhousie University’s internal sexual assault protocol is concerning to police and sexual assault centre officials.
“My main concern with these flowcharts is that they don’t seem to serve the best interest of the victim,” said Sgt. Mark Hobek, the police officer in charge of Halifax Regional Police’s SAIT unit — the body that investigates sexual assaults.
If students want to report the incident to police, Hobek questions why the flowcharts suggest they contact campus security first.
“I don’t see how campus security can provide more assistance than police and EMS could…We have programs in place to help victims and ensure that others are kept safe,” he said after examining Dal’s internal sexual assault procedure.
“It should go without saying, in case of an emergency 911 needs to be called right away and anything related to a potential crime should be reported to police,” he says.
Jackie Stevens, co-ordinator of Halifax’s Avalon Sexual Assault Centre says, “These flowcharts could lead a victim to make a decision in a time of trauma when they don’t fully understand the options and treatments available.”
UNews presented Hobek and Stevens with these documents detailing the school’s response to sexual assaults on campus.
Stevens says, “I question why campus security is so high on the chart.”
Even after 72 hours, Stevens recommends that a victim contact a support advocate before campus security.
“Her concern comes from past cases on a number of campuses. She says in some situations victims reported a sexual assault to residence officials and had no way of knowing what their options were.”
She says, “It’s a concern that internal policies make it look like universities are covering up sexual assaults and that’s not necessarily the case. I see the police’s concern that if a problem is being dealt with on campus, they feel they should be informed.”
The flowcharts were created by Dalhousie’s human rights office this summer and intended for use by both students and employees —anyone who may come in contact with a victim or have knowledge of a sexual assault. Campus security worked with the department in the creation of the documents.
Hobek questions how the flowcharts prompt students to contact campus security before police.
“I don’t see how campus security can provide more assistance than police and EMS could…We have programs in place to help victims and ensure that others are kept safe.”
“It should go without saying, in case of an emergency 911 needs to be called right away and in anything related to a potential crime should be reported to police,” he says.
Gaye Wishart, a representative of Dal’s human rights office says, “If it’s a emergency we would like the victim to contact campus security first…We’ve had incidents where ambulances are running around campus trying to find the right building.”
She says, “Campus security has a better knowledge of campus than police and can get to people quicker.”
Hobek says, “There’s only one number for an emergency and that’s 911.”
Hobek says that when a sexual assault is reported via 911 police and EMS work to ensure the health of the victim and will work with the victim to move forward with a possible criminal investigation.
Wishart says, “Campus security are trained to work with the victim and can discuss whether or not to call 911.” She adds, “If campus security assesses the situation and there is danger to others on campus or the victim is in need of emergency care, campus security has a duty to inform police.”
“We want victims to know that above all we want to help them,” Hobek said.
Hobek says the time frame of 72 hours seems arbitrary and is “not from us.”
Dal’s ‘72-hour’ policy comes from recommendations made by SANE, Halifax’s sexual assault nurses unit. SANE was consulted on the creation of the flowcharts. Police and Avalon say they were not consulted.
Wishart says, “Our head of campus security is a former police officer.”
Stevens says it’s not a black or white issue when dealing with on-campus assaults.
“Students that have been assaulted may be hesitant to pursue help and justice options on campus because they may be receiving other services from on-campus facilities and may know the people working in clinics.”
Stevens urges victims to contact Avalon if they are unsure of their options or they are afraid of the stigma of reporting assaults to school officials.
Her main concern is that the victim is helped and that a victim knows all of the options available to them. But in emergency situations she thinks it’s always a good idea to contact 911.