In the second right-hand stall of the first-floor women’s bathrooms, a piece of paper is taped to the left wall. On it, a message:
We acknowledge and have noted the information previously shared on this wall.
Warning your friends about certain people based on your experience is a legit prevention strategy.
In order to allow the College to take further action and potentially protect the student body as a whole, please get in touch confidentially.
If you have experienced sexual violence in any way, there is support available.
SVRT@dawsoncollege.qc.ca 514-931-8731 ext. 1112”
The wall, which had previously been covered with names, Instagram accounts and descriptions of students accused of sexual assault, had now been wiped bare, its previous use as a means to call out perpetrators of sexual violence replaced by a message with a QR code. After scanning the QR code out of curiosity, I get redirected to the Dawson website’s “Sexual Violence Prevention and Response” page, where a series of phone numbers, website links, and forms are presented. Though this feels reassuring, knowing my school has resources for me to access if needed, I am hit with a second thought: why is this the first time I’ve seen these resources? And why was it in a random bathroom stall?
Upon further research, it seems as though the College has developed sufficient and in-depth resources for sexual violence victims. The website offers links to documents disclosing the school’s and the law’s policies on sexual violence and harassment, as well as the procedures for responding to student or employee disclosures, reports, and complaints. While this seems great in theory, in practice, a few shortcomings arise.
Firstly, while the Dawson website offers extensive information, in my two years at Dawson, I have never been briefed on these procedures or policies. Although I remember needing to complete an online Sexual Violence Prevention Training at the beginning of my first semester, the training was completed within forty minutes and never heard from again.
Secondly, though I appreciate the addition of a QR code in the bathroom stalls leading to helpful resources, I wonder why it took people writing down explicit accusations for the school to take action. While protecting students against possible false allegations is understandable, why would students resort to writing names on bathroom walls if they felt they had easier, more effective ways to warn fellow schoolmates?
During my research, I scrolled through my Instagram feed and came across a post by @dawson.confessions2, an account where students can send in anonymous confessions. The post in question was celebrating a student accused of sexual assault’s rejection from McGill. While the victim, confessor, and accused remained anonymous, I found a few posts on the account’s page relating to instances of sexual violence.
According to @dawson.confessions2, the page receives a plethora of “confessions” sent in from sexual assault victims. While these confessions do not always include full names, many will add specific details, making the accused person easily recognizable. The owner of the page, however, chooses not to publish these posts in case the wrong people get targeted or a confession happens to be false. “I think my platform is a good place to raise awareness around people’s behaviours at school and what they’re experiencing, but it’s definitely not the right place to report something like that,” the account owner says.
When posts are vague enough to be published, the comment section gives people a chance to let others know that whatever form of sexual violence is being discussed is wrong and should be condemned.
When considering the number of posts being sent to this anonymous platform, papers plastered on bathroom stalls and forty-minute online trainings are nowhere near enough. While Dawson succeeded in creating detailed resources and having staff available for help and guidance, the resources are simply not advertised enough for a young demographic that, whenever crisis arises, reaches out to social media or platforms that they are more familiar with.
In a school with over ten thousand students, social media accounts like the DSU, Dawson Athletics or The Plant have amassed from 1000 – 4000 followers. However, accounts like the Hive, which provides resources for mental and sexual health and could potentially be a useful platform for sexual assault victims, are much less advertised.
Advocating for students’ safety is essential in an environment where they should feel safe and protected. Consequently, Dawson should ensure that essential resources are being properly publicised, which can be done through simple changes like promoting social media platforms that link to Dawson resources, having more open talks and discussions around consent, sexual violence, and exploitation, or creating more accessible, visible links on commonly used apps like Omnivox.
*If you have suffered sexual violence at Dawson or anywhere else, please look at the links below. You are heard and your voice and safety are important.
Dawson resources: SVRT@dawsoncollege.qc.ca 514-931-8731 ext. 1112
External resources in Canada and Qc:
Sexual Assault Centres (CALACS): 1 877 717-5252
Sexual Violence Helpline: 1 888 933-9007
For immediate help, please dial 911