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Kootenay Columbia students rally against sexual violence

Students carried a powerful and emotional message to SD20 school board office at KCLC
Student protesters brought an emotional message against sexual violence to the SD 20 school board office at Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre. Photo: Jim Bailey

Greater Trail students brought an emotional and powerful message against sexual violence to the School District 20 board office at Kootenay-Columbia Learning Centre (KCLC) on Thursday, Feb. 24.

About 30 protesters attended the rally to voice their displeasure at SD20 sexual violence policies, and advocate for more supports in and out of school.

“I am very happy with the turnout, but I still feel like we are not being heard,” said Breannah, a KCLC Grade 12 student, who helped organize the event.

Students from J. L. Crowe, KCLC, Castlegar and Nelson rallied at the entrance of the SD 20 board office wielding signs that read “Nobody asks what my rapist was wearing!” and “Even my dog understands when I say No!”

“We want to see change,” said Breannah. “We do not want to feel scared to go to school. I should not have had to change schools twice and then still have to sit here and struggle with my rapist in my class and then me get sent home from school for it.

“At least 90 per cent of the people here have experienced the very same thing.”

SD20 Superintendent, Katherine Shearer, was there to acknowledge the protest and the gravity of the students’ concerns.

“We appreciated the opportunity to hear and speak with the students who came to the school board office to raise awareness of issues related to sexual assault,” said Shearer. “The group voiced concerns around sexual consent, reporting, and awareness of sexual assaults in our communities.

“Together with our schools, the RCMP, and community partners, SD20 will continue to work to address these concerns and ensure our students feel safe and heard.”

Trail RCMP was called to the protest and engaged the students in a productive discussion, recommending that victims come forward to report any incidents of sexual assault to the police.

“The students at the protest are very brave and stood up against sexual violence,” says Sgt. Mike Wicentowich. “I was impressed by their passion, message, and unity. I think as a community we need to acknowledge this very special stand against sexual violence by our local youth.

“My hope is that victims of sexual violence can know and consider all of their options when reporting an assault to the police.”

Many students in high schools across B.C. have protested against sexual violence over the past month, demanding that action be taken that will provide a safe place where students don’t have to confront their sexual assailant every day.

Student protesters have called for similar guidelines that replicate Toronto school district policies, which suspend or move an offender from their current school.

“It was very traumatizing and if nothing is done, I’m losing all faith in the school board,” said Breannah. “My little sister is coming to high school in a year, and I’m terrified for her. I don’t want my little sister to go through what I had to go through.

“They’ve ruined my high school experience, and made me fail so many classes I am struggling to graduate right now because of it, and still nobody listens.”

Wicentowich assured students that Trail RCMP will work to ensure that any report of sexual violence is treated seriously and fully investigated.

Trail RCMP offer sexual assault victims 24/7 victim centered service, where the victim can choose to report to the Trail RCMP anonymously, for information only at the time of reporting, or proceed forward with a criminal investigation.

The police will conduct an in-depth review of any outstanding sexual assaults and discussion about any concerns.

Victims can access a sexual assault forensic evidence collection kit located at the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital with or without the need to direct report the sexual assault to the Trail RCMP, and receive 24/7 support from Trail Victims Services who can help victims access other support services and programs.

The RCMP will also conduct a review process and coordinated investigation approach for multiple victims of one offender.