VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s been assisting sexual assault victims at The University of British Columbia for over 16 years but as of this fall the student-run Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) will no longer be offering support services.
“The collaborative and successful work over the past year confirmed the AMS’ confidence in SVPRO’s ability to fully serve our community and function as one centralized space providing ongoing support services for survivors,” says a news release.
“As such, we have decided to focus SASC on education, outreach, advocacy, and an integral role in on-going assistance for AMS human resources, clubs, and constituencies’ responses to sexual violence. This means that starting at the end of August, on-going support services will no longer be offered by SASC, and SVPRO will provide enhanced ongoing support services and additional services.”
SVPRO was established following the March 2017 creation of UBC’s Policy 131 Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Misconduct which included a new sexual assault policy.
“The SASC has been a resource on campus for over 16 years and have provided support services for survivors of sexual violence when there was no SVPRO and when the university was not able to step up and support survivors in the way that they needed,” says former SASC Manager Ashley Bentley, who’s disappointed with the decision.
“The SASC has a great reputation on campus and is a low-barrier service and one of the only support centres in the province that provides support to people of all genders.”
Bentley says SVPRO does amazing work and has great staff but worries it’s not equipped to be the sole provider of sexual assault support services because it’s been on campus for just over a year and some victims don’t feel comfortable accessing institutional services.
“The SVPRO is a very new office and it’s still building credibility and it’s still building trust,” she says. “You’re talking about the loss of a service being available where survivors can drop-in, call or e-mail, to share their story and to disclose their experience and to access safety planning, hospital accompaniment, academic accommodation.”
SASC says it strongly opposes the decision, adding it was never consulted.
“We believe that the SASC is an integral part of campus community, providing support to survivors of sexualized violence as well as their friends and family. We believe that this decision will not only be harmful to the survivors we currently support, have supported in the past and who we would support in the future,” it says in a Facebook post.
“We call on the AMS and UBC to reinstate the SASC’s ability to support survivors of sexualized violence, as well as their friends and family, to the fullest extent including but not limited to: crisis- and short-term emotional support; legal, medical and campus-related advocacy (including housing and academic concessions); accompaniment to court, appointments, and the Sexual Assault Service at UBC Urgent Care Centre; and all gender support groups for UBC students.”
A group describing itself as the The Collective in Solidarity with the SASC Team wrote an opinion piece in the University’s The Ubyssey paper, calling the move to cut support services not “survivor centred” and a petition to #SaveTheSasc has been created.
AMS says it will be holding a town-hall on July 5 to hear concerns and questions regards the changes it announced about SASC.
(2/2) We understand the need for our community to know more about this decision and we hope that we can respect that need. There will be an online forum for community members to submit questions and concerns if they cannot come in person.
— AMS Student Society (@AMS_UBC) June 23, 2018