Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing.
Dozens of students from the Sooke School District (SD62) walked out Wednesday, saying their schools are not doing enough to protect them when it comes to sexual assault.
The issue hits particularly close to home for one father, Mike, whose last name is being redacted at his daughter’s request.
“She was surrounded by a group of, I believe, five boys. They restrained her hands and held onto her shoulders while one boy specifically touched her breasts and digitally penetrated her. On school property. At 8:30 in the morning,” said Mike.
“We know who these kids are. We told them who the kids are, and we were told it’s a he said, she said situation.”
That was three years ago. Mike’s daughter is now 15 and has since changed schools several times, her mental health seriously suffering.
‘Don’t feel the happiness anymore’
Consequences to sexual violence, even 11-year-old Layla Mercer has seen.
“Some people quit their activities and sports because they don’t feel the happiness anymore,” said Mercer.
It’s effects possibly no one knows more than the grandmas in attendance, who at one point tried to enter the SD62 district building to speak with someone.
“It’s a very emotional experience because it has been going on for so long. And we see it happening to young women 50 years younger than us, and it breaks our hearts,” said Jackie Larkin, a grandmother attending the rally in support of Mike’s biological child.
“The children and the parents and the grandparents need to be heard! This is happening way too much in the schools, and things have to change,” said Grace Dingham, another grandmother in attendance.
‘A trauma-informed lens’: SD62
SD62 said in a statement to CHEK News that they “allocate the resources we have available and collaborate with our community and provincial partners to address concerns through a trauma-informed lens while adhering to legal and statutory regulations.”
They say they’ve hired a full-time sexual health coordinator, have a working Safe Schools Team which focuses on safety and providing trauma-informed assistance to students and families, and are making sure vice principals and principals who are receiving annual training on trauma-informed practices and education, including responding to sexual assault allegations, and confirms that staff is reviewing current policies.
Cheryl Brown, with Lavender Polka Dot, a survivor-run organization which offers survivors from all forms of abuse support, is shocked that after several serious allegations within the SD62 since 2021, the district still doesn’t have a reporting policy and procedure.
“There’s no changes,” added Brown.
“It’s as simple as them looking at their policies and their protocols and implementing [a reporting policy], and I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened here.”
CHEK News looked, and SD62 only has administrative regulations/processes for employee complaints.