Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape, sexual, verbal, physical abuse, drugs, and violence.
In light of the recent events at Western University (London, Ontario), I wanted to write address many of the issues that are still present surrounding the topic of rape and S.A. Here is a brief recap of orientation week at Western University. There have been numerous posts online about potential plans of sexual assault and druggings. In the first week, about 30 posts were made online that 30 students were drugged or assaulted at Medway Sydenham Hall. An orientation leader in her 4th year at the university, Katrina Desjardins tweeted:
I’m a 4th year Western student and 3 time orientation leader. This entire O-Week was horrific. I helped lead a predominantly female team. There were multiple instances where myself or other sophs were screamed at, pushed, and touched inappropriately by men. It was before midnight on Friday when we saw people start to drop like flies. Before midnight when we saw ambulances rush to three separate girls in less than a 100m radius. The rumours about people being drugged started circulating immediately. Sophs reported this early. We weren’t allowed in residence buildings due to covid protocol. I get that. But even as we begged higher ups and administration to check on people and let us help make sure everyone was safe, we were denied access.
When is it time for us to teach men, women, kids, adults, (but especially young impressionable teens) that it will never be the victim’s fault? It is not the clothes they choose to wear, nor the alcohol they choose to consume, or the way they are “wet” when they are being raped. A rapist is a rapist and they must be held accountable for their actions. A good amount of my friends, or mutuals, attend this university—to hear about what happened made me fear for their safety.
Understandably, around 9000 students walked out of their classes at noon on Friday to protest. They were also joined by faculty members as well as community members. The Western University president commended the students for organizing and protesting this “Culture of Misogyny” protest/rally. The numbers haven’t been confirmed yet from what I understand, however, assaults do not always get reported, therefore many of these victims don’t get the justice they deserve. The increased security on campus, and even police are not enough. Canadians between the age of 15-24 are more common to get sexually assaulted than those aged 55 and above. Around 82% of all victims of sexual assault under the age of 18 are female, and girls under age 18 report a rate of sexual violence almost five times higher than boys under 18. According to Canadian Women’s Foundation, sexual assault is the only crime that has not declined. Often, assault is done by someone the victim already knows, or has an established relationship with. It can be a relative, significant other, coworker, teammate, classmate, or even someone in a position of authority, etc. Most of the time, victims don’t process the fact they have been sexually assaulted by someone they know because they do not want to believe someone so close to them is capable of doing something like that.
How can sexual assault be stopped or prevented?
Ultimately, being a first-year student at university, you’re excited to form new relationships, meet new people, and surround yourself in a different environment. So, bearing that in mind you never really know anybody’s true intentions with you. But that’s the issue, we should not have to worry about whether something should happen to us in an unfamiliar environment. The university failed to protect them, yes, but at the end of the day it was because of the men, the perpetrators that those 30 students were drugged and assaulted. We must protect our children.
Our society has become accustomed to blaming the victims, or gaslighting them into believing that if they speak out, it will ruin their reputation as well as the abuser’s. When victims of assault internalize their victim blaming, they will eventually start to question their behaviour, or become in denial of their actions. This could become very harmful for the victims mentally, as they start to blame themselves for the assault, thinking that they could have done more to stop it. One thing you can do in order to stop and prevent it is hold the abusers accountable and propagate victim blaming and challenge gender inequality. There are systemic barriers that prevent victims from seeking justice, challenge them. Recognize the victim blaming as well, challenge that too. These survivors deserve to know that their sexual assault wasn’t their fault.