Photo caption: Many women never report their assault, says Ryerson’s educational equity advisor.

Photo: Allan Woods

Sexual assault often unreported

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By Allan Woods

The two sexual assaults that occurred over the last three weeks around campus were the only ones reported to Ryerson Security in the last year, but an employee of the school’s discrimination and harassment office says that number may be tragically misleading.

Based on national statistics, Tony Conte, an educational equity advisor with Ryerson’s discrimination and harassment office, said there are many more women that never come forward to report their cases of assault.

On Friday March 22, a third-year broadcast student was pinned against a wall near Pitman Hall and had sexual demands made of her. She was then struck over the head with a glass bottle before escaping. Almost one week later, on March 28, two women were accosted by a man outside a coffee shop on Victoria Street in two separate incidents. That man was later caught and charged by police.

The statistics dealing with sexual assault tell a much different tale than Ryerson Security’s incident reports, though. According to a 1993 Statistics Canada survey, one in three women are victims of sexual assault.

“That’s they key thing. A lot of this stuff goes unreported,” Conte said. “Some women feel they have brought it upon themselves.”

Others fear being revictimized when they report it to police, or having to relive the trauma when they recount the attack. Others still fear they won’t be believed if they come forward with their story.

“There’s a myth that women falsely report this,” Conte said.

Ryerson’s harassment office defines sexual assault as “any unwanted touch of a sexual nature. Sexual assault ranges from unwanted touching or fondling to forced kissing, to forced intercourse. Sexual assault is a crime of violence, motivated by a desire to control or dominate.”

The words of broadcast student assaulted near Pitman chillingly echo this definition.

“He was in control of me.” She said. “He had me pinned against the wall. He was a big guy. There was little that I could have done.”

Conte said people who’ve been assaulted and seek help from his office are placed “back in the driver’s seat” because after an attack, victims often feel a terrifying loss of power and sense of vulnerability.

The harassment office will support assault victims in whatever decisions they make, Conte sais, whether it be to report the attack or to seek counselling.

Ryerson Security’s management was unavailable for comment but a pamphlet issued by the department warns women against taking shortcuts through isolated areas, especially late at night. Instead they should keep to well-travelled routes and well-lit areas.

In case of an emergency, blue lights around campus mark intercoms that provide a direct link to security officers. As well, all payphones on campus call the Bond Street headquarters when someone dials 80. Students who find themselves alone late at night or are concerned for their safety can call 416-979-5001 to request a security escort to any location on campus or to the Dundas subway station, 24 hours a day.

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