13 hours ago
By: Murissa Barrington
An online petition demanding harsher treatment for a University of Calgary student convicted of a sex crime is picking up steam, with 45,000 signatures and counting.
Conner Neurauter, 21, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual interference on Jan. 4 and was sentenced to 90 days in prison.
A British Columbia judge ruled he could complete this semester of his Bachelor of Science degree before serving his prison sentence.
The move has sparked national outrage and in an interview with the CBC, the victim’s mother said she wants Neurauter expelled.
“I feel for the safety of other students that you have a sexual offender attending your university,” said the mother, whose identity can’t be revealed due to a publication ban protecting her daughter.
The victim told the court that she and Neurauter engaged in sexual contact in 2015 when she was 13 and he was 18 years old.
On one occasion, the victim said he choked her with his hands and requested nude photos from her. He then threatened to show the images to the girl’s family if she decided to expose their relationship.
Kaitlyn Caswell, from Calgary, Alta. started the petition after she said she started to feel like she was reading the “same story over and over again.”
“A young white man gets convicted of sexual assault and either the courts or his sports teams or the schools kind of cover him and lessen the repercussions of his actions,” Caswell said. “When I read this and I saw what was going on, I saw an opportunity that we could actually get some real change going here.”
She said the judge’s lenient ruling sends a terrible message to the victims of sex crimes.
“We accommodate people who have been convicted of a crime while not really looking out for how that would affect the victim of that crime,” Caswell said.
At the time of writing, the petition has garnered more than 45,000 signatures since it was launched just two days ago.
Caswell said she’s grateful for the petition’s rapid growth and the conversations it’s continuing about sexual violence.
Corinne Ofstie from the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services said she is disappointed by the judge’s decision.
“We are very disappointed to see that the rights of people who are convicted of sexual crimes are given precedence over the impact that can have on survivors of sexual assault,” Oftsie said.
“It sends a message to the public and to people who have experienced sexual violence that their crimes might be minimized and not dealt with appropriately.”
While there is no word yet on whether the University of Calgary will heed Caswell’s petition, the school released a statement on Tuesday and said the matter is currently under review.
“The University of Calgary is committed to providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for our campus community,” the statement reads.
The university also confirmed that Neurauter is not on the school campus this week and that he is not and never has been on the University of Calgary Dinos men’s hockey team.