CALGARY – The University of Calgary says a student who has been convicted of sexual interference would be escorted off campus if he tried to return and a student sexual assault prevention club says it’s been working hard to respond to the emotional fallout of the controversy.
Provost Dru Marshall said Connor Neurauter, 21, has been advised not to return to school this term or risk being made to leave by campus security.
“There were a number of safety concerns that we took into account in our decision,” she said Friday.”We know that victims of sexual violence … may have been triggered by this incident and we were also worried about his safety, given some of the commentary on social media.”
An online petition demanding Neurauter’s expulsion had more than 58,000 signatures by Friday afternoon, but the university said it did not have the grounds to take that step because his crime took place before he became a student.
“We can’t be swayed necessarily by public opinion,” said Marshall.
Survivors have been visiting the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club for support as the case stirs up their own difficult memories and emotions, said president Shelby Montgomery.
“It’s been a really tough week for people and they’re really struggling at this point,” she said. “Particularly people who were dissatisfied with the provost’s response are feeling especially upset at the moment.”
The club, which advocates for prevention directed at potential perpetrators as opposed to putting the onus on victims, has been referring people to a number of resources on and off campus who can provide professional help.
Neurauter pleaded guilty to sexual interference with a minor in Kamloops, B.C., in November and was sentenced earlier this month to 90 days in jail.
The case stoked outrage because the judge allowed him to delay all but one day of his sentence to May 4 — once Neurauter had completed his semester at the university.
Kamloops This Week reported from the trial that Neurauter, a former junior hockey goaltender, obtained nude photos from a 13-year-old girl and threatened to show them to her family. The court heard Neurauter was 18 when he and the girl had a brief relationship, Kamloops This Week reported.
Montgomery said she was angry, but not surprised, at what she believes is a lenient sentence. She said there have been many cases where a perpetrator’s athletic or academic prospects have factored too heavily into their punishment.
“This is a product of a culture that we live in that doesn’t tend to respond adequately to acts of sexual violence,” she said.
Deb Tomlinson, CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, said reporting rates for sexual crimes are extremely low.
“For those survivors who do choose to access the criminal justice system, the rates of conviction are equally low and sentencing is not what it should be,” she said.
“Rape culture’s a deeply embedded set of attitudes and beliefs that influence us to minimize the crime of sexual assault, minimize how often it happens and minimize how very harmful it is to the people it happens to.
“Until we address those myths and stereotypes of rape culture, things are not going to change.”
In a statement Friday, Neurauter’s parents said he has done his best to be respectful of the legal system and others in the case.
Chris and Susan Neurauter said they are proud of how their son has handled himself and disappointed in media coverage that they describe as distorted and sensationalistic.
“This has been a nightmare for our family, one that none of us — but particularly our children — (is) … equipped to handle.”