She was an 18-year-old freshman from the Toronto area studying at St. Francis Xavier University, a small-town Nova Scotia school with red brick buildings, green sports fields and a lively school spirit.
He was five years older, a friend of a friend.
The events of one Friday night last November would raise questions about how universities handle sexual assault allegations — and whether they are doing enough about sexual violence.
After a night of hanging out with friends, she realized she forgot her laptop charger in his room at a co-ed residence on the edge of campus.
She texted him asking to go grab it, and he offered to bring it to her room, according to a statement from the woman that was shared with The Canadian Press.
They chatted for a bit, hugged goodbye and then he started to kiss her, she said.
“Confused, I went with it but soon told him, ‘No, we shouldn’t,”‘ the woman, whose name is under a publication ban, said in the statement.
“It all kind of blurs together after that. I don’t remember how he managed to take my clothes off.”
The next thing she recalls is him being inside her, and her telling him no, she said.
“He didn’t stop.”
She says her harrowing experience would be exacerbated in the months ahead by the Antigonish university’s mishandling of the reported sexual assault.
Although St. F.X. swiftly launched an investigation after she came forward and found the accused responsible, it quietly set aside its decision to suspend him for the next academic year — without notifying her.
The university says when an appeal is pending it has to maintain the accused’s access to education. But a legal expert says he could have been suspended until a criminal prosecution in the matter was resolved.
The situation sheds light on the enduring challenge of addressing sexual assault claims on campus and changing what a recent report called a culture of acceptance towards sexual violence.
The day after the alleged sexual assault, the victim’s mother says the accused sent text messages apologizing.
“He asked her if she was OK, if she was in pain … saying he’s sorry,” the mother, who is not named to protect her daughter’s identity, said in an interview. Her daughter declined an interview.
It was over the Christmas holidays at home in a Toronto-area suburb that the teen opened up.
“She said, ‘You know Mom, I don’t want to ruin his life. I just don’t want to have to see him anymore.”‘
In January, the student reported the alleged sexual assault to St. F.X. While the investigation was ongoing, he wasn’t allowed to contact her, or set foot on her residence floor.
The university’s quasi-judicial panel found him responsible in March. He was permitted to finish out the school year under stricter conditions — St. F.X. moved him out of her residence and restricted the hours he could go to the meal hall — but he would be suspended for the 2018-19 academic year, the mother said.
For the woman, whose grades had slipped, it was the promise of a fresh …read more