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Survivors unite and shed light

by Nelly Sérandour-Amar October 29, 2016 0 comment
Survivors unite and shed light

Québec Contre les Violences Sexuelles is a social movement created to provide a voice for sexual assault survivors

The social movement Québec Contre les Violences Sexuelles was created a few weeks ago, with the goal denouncing rape culture and discussing the lack of funding for organizations addressing sexual assault issues.

Ariane Litalien, who is currently a student at McGill University, helped create the social movement. She shared her experience with sexual assault while she studied at Harvard University with The Concordian.

“I was an undergraduate student and was seeing a student who was also living in my residence house,” she said. “After a party, I went back to his room where he started kissing me super aggressively and biting me. I asked him to stop, and he told me I should wear a scarf to hide the marks.” Litalien ended up feeling pressured to do things she wasn’t comfortable with, and left the room in tears, she said.

Although she told a few friends what had happened that week, she couldn’t admit to herself that it was sexual assault—until she attended an event where he won a community award.

“I started crying and realized something was really wrong,” she said. That’s when she went to discuss the issue with the residence and Harvard administrators, who made her feel like she was doing all of this in vain, she said. “The only sexual assault policy was 20-years-old, and the administration told me that, under that policy, I couldn’t file any complaints for sexual violence,” she said.

Although there was little she could do at that point, Litalien at least knew the assault wasn’t her fault and she decided not to leave the residence. However, later on, her perpetrator was hired to work at the front desk of the residence. “He had access to my mail, and personal information,” she said.

Litalien was eventually diagnosed with depression, and she realized she needed to speak out, so she detailed her experience in an article for her school’s daily student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. “Strangers would share it on social media, which made me feel the validation that the administrators didn’t really give me,” she said.

The article was a turning point in Litalien’s life. She was interviewed for a documentary about sexual assaults called The Hunting Ground. She shared the stage with Lady Gaga and other sexual assault survivors at the 2016 Oscars, where the singer performed “Till It Happens to You.”

Upon returning in Montreal last year to pursue her studies at McGill University in medicine, Litalien said she realized Quebec did not have a law mandating that universities report on sexual violence or have a policy on sexual violence. This is why Litalien created Québec Contre les Violences Sexuelles, with the help of Kimberley Marin and Melanie Lemay who are also sexual assaults survivors.

“It’s really meant to be a social organization for anyone fed up of the way sexual violence is handled in our society, with rape cultures and with universities not answering well to the complaints of sexual assaults,” said Litalien.

Concordia University implemented its policy on sexual violence on May 20, 2016, outlining its commitment to creating and maintaining a sexual violence-free campus.

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) coordinator acts as a point of contact for first response in the case of sexual violence, according to Concordia’s website. With the consent of the survivor, the coordinator then provides support and manages the case both internally and externally.

Graphic by Charlotte Bracho

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