According to the University of Victoria's Anti-Violence Project, between one in six and one in four women in Canada experience some form of sexual assault during their time at college or university. Clearly, there is an ongoing problem at post-secondary institutions - sexual assault is disturbingly prevalent in society, and colleges and universities are not exempt from this.
However, many post-secondary institutions in Canada are severely under-equipped to address the systemic problem of sexual assault. While it is not our intention to undermine existing services, or “attack” any post-secondary institution for their existing services and policies, the fact is that lack of survivor-specific resources, clear sexual assault policy, and thoughtful awareness initiatives contribute significantly to a college and university culture of silence and alienation among survivors of sexual assault – as well as an environment where predators and potential perpetrators, believing that sexual assault is not taken seriously, are more likely to offend.
Concordia University, like most universities and colleges in Canada and worldwide, currently provides a bare minimum of support services for survivors of sexual assault, and most of these services are provided in accordance with unclear policy, procedures that are inconsistent and sometimes contradictory from department to department, and a framework that seeks to emulate the ways in which the state handles cases of sexual assault - that is to say a framework rooted in unconscious (and conscious) sexism, ciscentricism, heterosexism, racism, and ableism.
We believe that it doesn't have to be like this.
We believe that the university has the resources and moral obligation to provide the following, in the interests of making the Concordia community a safer place for everyone - and of setting an example for post-secondary institutions all across Canada.
1. Sensitivity training for all service providers and security officers at Concordia University. This includes not only trainings on general sexual assault awareness, but anti-racism and cultural sensitivity trainings, trans 101 trainings, and dis/ability rights trainings.
2. A comprehensive, clear and specific policy on sexual assault. We are not satisfied with policies that only address sexual assault in euphemistic terms, including it implicitly under the umbrellas of "physical assault", "threatening and illegal behavior", and "sexual harassment" - these terms serve to obfuscate and confuse, and the lack of a clear and consistent policy plays a huge role in facilitating the current situation. For more on what we want from a sexual assault policy at Concordia, please see this page.
3. Regular sexual assault awareness and prevention initiatives, including promotion of services for sexual assault survivors on-campus. We refuse to accept that many survivors go without support from the university because the administration is too afraid of controversy to advertise the fact that services do exist. We are offended by "prevention" information that targets women as survivors and potential victims, instead of targeting potential perpetrators and fostering a culture of respect and safety.
4. A university-funded sexual assault centre at Concordia. This centre would manage the coordination of service provision for sexual assault survivors at Concordia, facilitate trainings and popular education for university students, faculty and staff, and provide much-needed crisis intervention services and resources on sexual assault and recovery.
We are positive that all of these goals are not only attainable, but attainable within the next academic year. We are excited to be advocating for these changes, and look forward to working with the university to see them to fruition – again, it is not our intention to attack or undermine existing services, but to present, develop and implement new, dynamic and expanded services, to augment and coordinate among existing services, and ultimately to transform Concordia into school that is safe, accessible, and informed to the benefit of everyone within our diverse and valuable community.
We, the undersigned, call on Concordia University to:
1. develop and implement a clear and specific policy on sexual assault;
2. facilitate relevant trainings for all Concordia faculty and staff who are involved with providing services for sexual assault survivors at Concordia University;
3. initiate survivor-sensitive sexual assault awareness campaigns, and
4. establish and fund a Sexual Assault Centre on campus.
The Services for Sexual Assault Survivors at Concordia University petition to Concordia University was written by Laura Ellyn and is in the category Gender Rights and Issues at GoPetition.