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You think you're safe at school? Think Again.

Jacqueline Lisbona

Ontario campus study finds Queen’s University has 2nd highest rate of reported sexual harassment

One in five U of O students report being sexually assaulted in 2017-18 year, provincial survey finds

McGill University has responded after 50,000 people petitioned the school to act over sexual assault allegations against a first-year student.

During September orientation week at Western University, there were four sexual assault complaints and hundreds of allegations posted on social media. Thousands of students walked out of classes to protest sexual violence, misogyny and rape culture on campus. Western student leader Eunice Oladejo exclaimed that these issues are not just occurring on Western’s campus, “it's something that's happening on a lot of different campuses." According to a 2020 Statistics Canada report, 71% of students at Canadian post-secondary schools witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours involving students or others associated with the school.

An abundance of witnesses posted their stories on Reddit, a discussion website, and used the term “roofied” many times. “Roofied”, short for Rohypnol, is a term used to describe ingesting date rape drugs. Reddit user Chance_Cod8134 posted “During OWeek I witnessed an Engineering Soph getting pretty creepy with some of his frosh. The frosh just painted themselves purple and he wanted to take a photo of them and kept nagging the girls to go topless to show “how purple they really are.””

Another user shared “Yoo so 30 something ppl got roofied, that’s what my friend told me. And he knows 2 that got raped. This is fucked man.”

Western has taken measures to improve the safety of their school by involving Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children. They will be conducting a mandatory training course for all 5,300 students living on the ten Western residences. Western has also increased the number of security guards on campus and has opened resource centres for support that are available to students and teachers. Terry McQuaid, director of wellness and well-being at Western said, “This enhanced training is one crucial element of our commitment – as individuals and as an institution – to listen better and do better.”

Since 2015, Ontario, B.C, Manitoba, PEI and Quebec have all mandated that colleges and universities implement sexual violence policies. In 2017, St. Mary's University in Halifax introduced a campus "Consent Week". In 2018 the University of PEI created and marketed coasters advocating consent with the caption “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get my consent”, and recently McGill and Concordia University in Montreal adopted a 45-minute mandatory online course about consent, called It Takes All of Us: Creating a Campus Community Free of Sexual Violence.

Alex Liepins, an academic associate in teaching and Learning Services at McGill, shared that 50,000 students have already completed the program, which is “the largest teaching initiative ever at the university”.

Closer to home, our very own Dawson college has had their fair share of sexual assault scandals including the high profile case involving Winston Sutton, a former drama teacher who had several sexual harassment allegations against him in the span of three consecutive year. In interviews with CBC, four female Dawson students described the regular visits to his office where they were given unwanted hugs, their hair was caressed, and Sutton tried to hold their hands. In a statement from Dawson's director general, Richard Filion, he said "the allegations were deemed extremely serious, which led the college to launch an investigation." Dawson created a policy on sexual violence that was adopted in April 2019 that states: “It is illegal to commit any form of sexual violence. Dawson will not tolerate intimidation, harassment, or assault of a sexual nature.” Dawson now has a Sexual Violence Response Team that can be reached via email and/or in room 4E.2. The college has also introduced the same mandatory It Takes All of Us training for all 11,000 students and employees.

Quebec’s Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barette announced at a press conference on September 27th that victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault will have access to a free legal service in Quebec. $3 million will be invested in these services annually and a team of 14 lawyers who specialize in domestic and sexual violence has been created to "help provide more autonomy, security and confidentiality in their legal proceedings and [victims] will have access to all the legal resources they need.”

Gender-based violence, including sexual misconduct and assault is pervasive in our culture and society. Fortunately, schools have begun taking action, and hopefully future features won’t be a repeat of past headlines.

A slide from McGill's mandatory training course It Takes All of Us: Creating a Campus Community Free of Sexual Violence. (Courtesy of McGill University)


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