The campaign to get a sexual assault crisis centre on campus, spearheaded by the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, kicked off last spring. Organizers are not only looking at establishing a centre, but also to get the university to clarify its vague clauses regarding sexual assault in its Code of Rights and Responsibilities.
Similar crisis centres already exist at many other Canadian universities, including McGill. The centre often cited as a strong example by campaign coordinators is located at the University of Alberta. The centre at that campus, which has a population of roughly 29,000 students, indicated it receives about 200 cases of reported sexual assault every year. By contrast, Concordia’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities, operating on a campus of about 45,000 students, reported receiving 12 reported cases of sexual assault in 2009-10, with only one leading to a formal complain. In 2010-11, the Office received nine cases.
Officials with the 2110 Centre are right in pointing out that it is highly unlikely that only an average of 10 cases of sexual assault take place at Concordia each year. The number is probably much higher, but remains low on paper due to the fact that victims could very well find it difficult to report their case to people who are not specifically trained in dealing with sexual assault cases, and who are not available at all hours.
The Concordia Student Union has already sent a clear message of support to the quest for a crisis centre. Last October, its council unanimously approved a motion put forward by councillor Irmak Bahar endorsing the creation of a sexual assault crisis centre funded by the Concordia administration, as well as mandatory sensitivity training programs for security personnel. The CSU executive was mandated to write a letter of support to the administration, who indicated at the time that the issue would be looked into.
Almost four months later, it seems the issue wasn’t looked at that closely. Supporters for a crisis centre, which also include many students, are still pushing just as hard for their project to finally come to fruition. A petition has been created to move the initiative along, and has so far received over 200 signatures.
The need for a sexual assault crisis centre is impossible to ignore. So get to it, Concordia. Should the university ever seriously consider a sexual assault centre to take shape on campus, it should also take a serious look at its vague policies on sexual assault. Modifying them to make them as clear and efficient as possible would also send the message that Concordia takes sexual assault very seriously, and is indeed interested in making both campuses as safe as possible for students.
A 2004 Statistics Canada survey found approximately 512,200 Canadians aged 15 and older had been the victims of a sexual assault in the 12 months preceding the survey. That is equivalent to 1,977 incidents of sexual assault per 100,000 people aged 15 and older. According to the 2110 Centre, more than 80 per cent of sexual assault survivors are women.
These numbers are screaming for a sexual assault crisis centre at Concordia. It’s time to act now before more Concordia victims are added to these alarming statistics.