Nova Scotia

Acadia student charged after alleged sexual assault on 1st day of class

A 21-year-old student at Acadia University has been charged with sexual assault after an alleged incident at the school on the first day of classes.

Accused must keep the peace and not have any direct or indirect contact with the victim

An Acadia University student was arrested on Sept. 4 and charged with sexual assault. He appeared in Kentville provincial court on Monday and was released under conditions. The accused is allowed to attend class. (CBC)

A 21-year-old student at Acadia University has been charged with sexual assault after an alleged incident at the school on the first day of classes.

Nova Scotia RCMP say they responded to a complaint at the Wolfville campus at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 2.

Const. Mark Skinner said police are not releasing the location of the alleged assault to protect the identity of the victim.

Philip Shawn Herman was arrested on Sept. 4 and spent the weekend in custody. He appeared in Kentville provincial court on Monday and was released under conditions. He's due back in court Oct. 5. Herman is allowed to continue attending classes.

On Monday night, Acadia University sent out an email to students informing them of the charge.

It said the accused must keep the peace and not have any direct or indirect contact with the complainant. It also said the university is working with the RCMP to "ensure these conditions are respected."

'Please look out for each other'

The email also included a link to counselling services.

"Students, we consider any sexual offense to be unacceptable and encourage you to be aware of the many resources that are available to you and to feel free — at any time — to contact any one of the professional resources on campus," Susan Mesheau, Acadia University's vice-president of enrolment and student services, wrote in the email.

"Please look out for each other, stay informed, know what we all can do to protect our personal safety and how we can assist and support victims."

James Sanford, the executive director of student services at Acadia University, says sexual violence is getting a lot of attention at schools across the country and "rightly so."

Information should be shared, says Sanford

"We've been working with our colleagues across the country on ways to reduce sexual violence on our campus," he said Wednesday.

"When a survivor has chosen to pursue the criminal system and the resources and options available to them, I think it's important that everyone understands that's a piece of public information and I think it's incumbent upon us to share that information."

Sanford said supports are not just for victims, but friends of victims who want to help.

Vicki Archer, a fourth-year sociology honours student, says when she first got to Acadia, incidents like these weren't being talked about. She said she thinks that has changed. (CBC)

Vicki Archer, a fourth-year sociology honours student and a member of the #knowmore campaign, said incidents of sexual assault weren't talked about when she started at Acadia. Now, things have changed.

'I was heartbroken'

"I was heartbroken when I read that. No one wants to open their email and see something like that happening to another member of our community. But as I was feeling sad, I was proud with how our administration system has dealt with this. They've been extremely transparent and supportive," she said.

"It's important for new students coming in that they're going to be supported, no matter what happens to them, and they have an administrative system here that cares about them — not only as students, athletes or academics — but as people."

A CBC News investigation earlier this year found the number of sexual assaults reported to Canadian post-secondary schools was surprisingly low, and experts said that was an indication that they are doing a poor job of encouraging students to come forward.

The investigation found that over a five-year period, more sexual assaults were reported to Ryerson University in Toronto than any other university or college in Canada. When the data is adjusted for population, Acadia University had the highest number of reports.