The university should create mandated safe space specifically for women
As a feminist and a survivor of sexual assault, I’ve been very open in sharing my own personal experiences, keeping in mind it may provide the strength and courage for other survivors to come forward and speak out.
My experiences with sexual assault are unfortunately not unique—an estimated 460,000 women are sexually assaulted every year in Canada, according to the YWCA, Canada’s largest multi service-organization for women.
When I saw Kelly Oxford, a Canadian author, screenwriter and social media blogger, ask women on Twitter to share their first experience with sexual assault in response to Donald Trump’s leaked audio saying he grabbed a woman “by the pussy,” a flood of memories came back.
What was my earliest recollection of sexual assault? The time a stranger pressed himself up against me on the metro? The time someone slapped and grabbed my butt as I headed to class? The time a guy groped my breasts and then laughed as I ran off crying?
Could these (amongst other more graphic) instances be why I often feel unsafe walking alone? Or why I feel uncomfortable being at school surrounded by groups of men? I had never really thought about it before. I realized I often felt unsafe in public, but I always assumed it was because I grew up in a small town. I never thought there could be another reason.
This is why women need a women-only space at Concordia. We shouldn’t need our own space. We should not feel afraid when men sit next to us. We should not feel unsafe at our own school—but some of us do.
We feel unsafe and uncomfortable because so many of us have had similar experiences with sexual assault, and sometimes more than once. Women are also the most vulnerable to sexual assault, with 15 to 20 per cent of female students experiencing some form of sexual violence during their time in university, according to Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC).
Hopefully one day women can stop being afraid, but for now, we should have a place of refuge, even if it’s just to study for a few minutes without being ogled—even if it’s just to finally catch our breath and say “I am safe.” How many women do you know go to the washroom just to get away from men who are harassing them? I can say with certainty that the vast majority of the women I know have.
Several universities across Canada have implemented designated women-only sessions at their campus gyms, including the University of Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Ryerson, according to The Mcgill Daily.
It is time for Concordia to prove that it is a progressive, feminist university by taking an initiative to make women feel safe, not just when they exercise, but wherever they are in the school by giving them a safe space.
Kelly Oxford received thousands of tweets from women sharing their stories of sexual assault. The number of incoming tweets was so overwhelming that her story went viral. Sexual assault is not a rare occurrence, and victims of it are everyday people like you and me. Whether it’s that shy girl who sits in the corner at the back of class and keeps to herself, or that bubbly girl who goes to every party—it can be anyone. Any of these women may (and probably) have been a victim of sexual assault.
The first step to making a change is awareness. If you’d like to see a women-only space at Concordia, talk to your friends, your peers, or your program’s student organization.