'Not only prevention, but also response': AMS to create sexual violence prevention working group

The AMS is creating a sexual violence prevention and respectful environment policy working group, which they hope will address a recognized gap in how they respond to sexualized violence.

At present, while the AMS has a respectful environment policy in place for their staff, subsidiaries and constituencies, there is no AMS policy which addresses the prevention of or response to sexual violence.

Max Holmes, AMS VP Academic and University Affairs, said that the AMS realizes that proper protections for survivors of sexual assault are needed within the AMS in the form of internal policies and protocol.

“There have to be clear policies and processes in place for people to come forward to seek assistance and to disclose, or even to report, a sexual assault,” said Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president of UBC’s Equity and Inclusion office and one of the key people who worked on the creation of UBC’s sexual misconduct policy (Policy 131). “And that’s key to creating a safer environment.”

The AMS has over 600 employees, many of whom are not UBC students and are thus not covered by UBC’s own policy. This new policy would cover not only staff, but also students that are involved with AMS clubs and constituencies, and those who work and volunteer within the AMS.

The working group will also address the respectful environment policy and propose amendments to it.

“We’re looking at not only prevention, but also response,” said Holmes.

The group will explore training options for AMS staff and subsidiaries for the purpose of sexual violence prevention. At the same time, it will also create policies that address the AMS’s response to sexual assault claims, the investigative procedure and the extent of the AMS’s jurisdiction in terms of punitive action towards perpetrators.

Another issue the working group will address is how this policy fits in with Policy 131, and how an investigation within the jurisdiction of the AMS, through the new policy, would accompany one conducted by the university.

There will be at least two consultations held before the final policy is drafted. The first, to be done in March, will collect information from the community on the issues they are hoping to see addressed with this policy. The second will be in October, and will reach out to the community for feedback on a draft of the policy. The working group will then compile this feedback, while maintaining the anonymity of those involved, and include it in the final policy report.

“We hope to really have a process where we can include everyone as much as possible,” said Holmes. The consultations will include all active members of the AMS — that is, all UBC students, as well as staff, volunteers and any AMS subsidiaries.

“Community consultation is the most important part of this process,” Holmes added. “We want to ensure that everyone felt that they were heard during this process, and not only that they were heard but that what they said was acted upon within the policies.”

Finlay also stressed the importance of community engagement in drafting such policies, saying that it was one of the most helpful things learnt from the process of creating Policy 131 in 2017.

“A real strength of [Policy 131] was that we heard so many people and we really listened and responded to what we heard,” she said.

The final policy report will be presented to the AMS during the last Council meeting of October 2018.