Saskatoon Star Phoenix
1.13.16 | Johnathan Charlton
David Lisak, an American expert on sexual assault, returns to Saskatoon on Jan. 25 to speak at a conference hosted by the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre.
This year, he intends to focus on the thorny issue of sexual assaults on university campuses. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix spoke to him to find out why every answer seems to lead to another conundrum. This interview has been condensed and edited.
Why is there so much attention now being paid to campus sexual assaults?
Any time you have an institution — it could be the military, or colleges and universities — where you bring together a large concentration of young people, you’re going to have a problem of sexual assault. One of the shifts we’re seeing, as of just a few years ago, I think a lot of people thought if you hear news about some college or university in some way focusing on the problem, they must have a real problem. And there wasn’t an awareness that virtually every institution has a problem. The question is, what are they doing about it?
What’s interesting is the relationship between campus administration and the police. It strikes me an administration isn’t necessarily as well equipped as the police to investigate sexual assaults.
If a student is sexually assaulted on a college campus or by another student, they see themselves as having two options. For most students and sexual assault survivors, the scariest option is to go to the police. For a lot of students, going to the police means you have to acknowledge that something criminal was done to you, and it’s scary. So if you see yourself as having another option, instead of going to the police, just telling somebody within the university and asking the university to handle it, a lot of students see that as a less scary option.