A former student of UBC Okanagan, Stephanie Hale, is experiencing newfound freedom following her victory in a discrimination case. A decade ago, her life was derailed by a sexual assault that occurred in a dorm room at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.
After the 2013 assault, perpetrated by a fellow engineering student, Stephanie began to suffer from nightmares. She watched her peers graduate, get married, and start families while she was consumed by her quest for justice.
In addition to struggling with the university’s internal non-academic misconduct reporting process, Stephanie eventually filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, alleging sex and disability discrimination.
Recently, the tribunal ruled in her favour, ordering the University of British Columbia Okanagan to pay Stephanie $50,000 in compensation for the harm done to her dignity, feelings, self-respect, and for mishandling her sexual assault allegation. She was also awarded nearly $15,000 in lost wages and expenses.
In a phone interview, Stephanie expressed her relief, stating, “I really feel like I can move forward from this.” Since the ruling, she has received messages of support from other women, commending her for being a beacon of hope.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal criticized the university’s handling of non-academic misconduct investigations, stating that it exacerbated Stephanie’s PTSD and caused her harm. The tribunal noted that it took three years for the university to inform her about the complaint process despite her multiple reports of rape.
The university, in response, stated that it is reviewing the ruling and has implemented significant changes since Stephanie’s case, emphasizing its commitment to addressing allegations of sexual misconduct.
Stephanie acknowledged that, after repaying debts incurred during the legal process, she won’t have any money left from the tribunal’s ruling. However, she emphasized that her fight was always about systemic reform and achieving justice.
Despite the challenges, Stephanie has been on a journey of healing, even forgiving her attacker. She went public with her experience, not wanting her name to be omitted, which is uncommon in cases involving sexual assault victims.
Stephanie sees the tribunal’s decision as a new beginning, enabling her to continue her engineering studies elsewhere. She acknowledges that her story’s journey is not over but remains committed to using her experience as a source of empowerment and transformation, regardless of the outcome.