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Canterbury student exec resigns after sexual assault accusation

Author
Katie Harris and Carolyne Meng-Yee,
Publish Date
Sun, 17 Sep 2023, 5:06pm
The man at the centre of the allegation has stepped down from a student executive committee. Photo / AP
The man at the centre of the allegation has stepped down from a student executive committee. Photo / AP

Canterbury student exec resigns after sexual assault accusation

Author
Katie Harris and Carolyne Meng-Yee,
Publish Date
Sun, 17 Sep 2023, 5:06pm

Warning: This article references sexual assault

A senior University of Canterbury student has stepped down from the student leadership team after an allegation of sexual and physical assault.

The former 2023 student executive, who is in his fifth year at law school, allegedly held a woman by her throat while he masturbated on her at a party, a complaint received by the university’s student association alleged.

The complainant, a fellow student, believed if others knew he was in a position of power they would be uncomfortable and it was inappropriate for him to remain in his position.

The female student told the Herald she still has “nightmares, constant anxiety and frequent panic attacks” because of his actions but felt unable to comment further.

When the Herald approached the student executive about the allegations he said: “I would love to defend myself publicly, but this is something I am dealing with privately and I’m not comfortable sharing with you, but I am doing a lot of work on this.”

Police confirmed they investigated but charges have not been laid.

University of Canterbury Student Association president Pierce Crowley said the association cannot provide any comment on complaints received for privacy reasons.

 “Speaking generally of our systems, the UCSA takes any complaints we receive extremely seriously, and have the safety of students as a core concern. Support is always given in the event of a complaint of this nature. We have clear processes, and stand by the comprehensive protective systems we have in place to ensure safety and accountability.”

A spokesperson for the University of Canterbury told the Herald they were unable to breach the privacy or confidentiality of private persons, including enrolled students.

“There is a range of support available to help students on campus, and we encourage students to access these support services. We have processes in place to address reports of harmful behaviour.”

The two students met last year at a function and began an on-again, off-again relationship, which ended this year.

A close friend of the female student, who doesn’t want to be named, said in her opinion her friend’s relationship with the student executive was toxic.

She claims her friend was initially attracted to the student executive because he was older and gave her validation. The friend believes their relationship was erratic and there was a power of imbalance.

“There was always tension and he became weird and toxic. He would talk about marriage and kids then prey on her insecurities the next day. They were sexually exclusive, but it was on-again, off-again and not ‘lovey-dovey’. She isn’t the person I met a year ago,” the friend said.

Eventually, the young law student grew tired of the student executive’s allegedly controlling behaviour and ended the relationship.

“It wasn’t healthy. She got sick of things and cut him off,” the friend claimed.

After the alleged assault the young student was in shock, the friend said, “she was there, but she wasn’t there”.

A different friend who was with her that night described her reaction as something akin to when someone loses a parent.

He said she approached him, “bawling her eyes out, like the most distressed I’ve ever seen a human”.

The entire night, he says, she was “on edge”. “She’s like a little sister to me.”

A mutual friend of the former couple says the woman is struggling and gets triggered when she sees the man’s car.

“She was scared to sleep because he might come and find her. He messed with her self–esteem, she started hating herself and hating the way she looked,” he claimed.

SEXUAL HARM


Where to get help:
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, any time 24/7:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email [email protected]
• For more info or to web chat visit safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been sexually assaulted, remember it's not your fault.

 

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