Executives prepare to create new policies to promote consent on campus.
“We shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not we are going to get sexually harassed on campus, especially by a professor,” said Camille Thompson, External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator at the Concordia Student Union (CSU).
Student safety was the highest priority at the CSU’s first sexual violence campaign launch on Sept. 13 at The Hive Café. “I want students to feel safe on their campus,” she said. “I want them to feel that they can come to study in a safe environment.”
The idea for a campaign emerged due to the current climate at the university related to sexual misconduct and allegations against certain professors, Thompson told The Concordian. “The more people are aware of what’s happening, the stronger the students’ voice is,” she said. According to the CSU website, two thirds of campus sexual assaults happen during the first eight weeks of classes.
Thompson is responsible for addressing sexual violence within a society supporting rape culture, while Mikaela Clark-Gardner, the CSU’s Academic and Advocacy Coordinator, is responsible for changing student policies, which are the two focuses of the campaign.
Thompson said rape culture exists as a result of ignorance towards the stories of victims, and a society based on patriarchy. “Giving more information and making people aware of what is consent and what you should and shouldn’t do, is a good start,” she said.
During the event, snacks and light refreshments were served to the mingling crowd. There were people wearing purple wristbands to answer questions about the campaign and people with blue wristbands were available to help or listen to any sexual assault survivors.
There are three main goals that Thompson hopes to accomplish during this academic year. Firstly, Thompson wants to raise awareness of consent and sexual violence, and secondly, get people involved so they feel included in the campaign. She also wants to provide resources to survivors while making sure the university is fulfilling its promises.
Alex Decarie, a political science and history student, present at the event, said he was interested in the campaign after being an active listener for some of his friends who were victims of sexual assault. He also wanted to demonstrate that straight white men can be supporters. “I want to show that consent is for everyone,” he said. “Guys should be respecting consent and be decent human beings to each other.”
Decarie believes that men are also victims of sexual assault but he presumes that it happens more than we think. “I have known men who have dealt with sexual assault but it does not outnumber my female friends. It’s already rare for women to say ‘this has happened to me’ so I think for men it would be increasingly so,” he said. He added that there is stigma surrounding male victims, so they often feel emasculated as a result of sexual assault.
As a student, Decarie hopes the campaign will help victims disclose their experiences to professionals and show that it can happen to anyone. He also wants the university to be more proactive in how it responds to victims of sexual misconduct.
Finally, Decarie wants people to be more aware of what consent is so they don’t intentionally or unintentionally violate another person’s rights. “Always ask and make sure,” he said. “If the other person does not seem sure, then that’s a ‘no.’ It’s always best to ask, even if it’s in the moment.”
The CSU will be hosting a rap battle against sexual violence on Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. at Reggies Bar, as well as an exposition called “What were you wearing?” in late October at the LB building, which aims to dismantle stereotypes on sexual violence and slut-shaming.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault Resource Centre in room H-645 on the downtown campus or call Jennifer Drummond at 514-848-2424 Ext. 3353.
Graphic by @spooky_soda.