Taking action to prevent sexual assault

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin.

Once again, a scandal has erupted around allegations of sexual assault at the hands of a powerful man. On Oct. 5, The New York Times reported that several actors, including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd, came forward saying they had been sexually harassed by producer and former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein. Three women even accused Weinstein of rape.

This scandal has reignited a conversation about sexual assault as celebrities condemn Weinstein’s alleged actions and more people speak out about their own experiences with sexual assault or harassment. Needless to say, this is an issue that extends far beyond Hollywood and needs to be addressed. Yet it is still easy to feel discouraged and powerless in the face of so many instances of sexual assault that have been ignored or covered up for so long.

Thankfully, closer to home, preventative action is being taken to educate people about sexual assault and consent. Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) recently implemented a mandatory training program for first-year students living in residence. The workshop was designed by the centre’s staff with the purpose of educating new students about sexual consent and communication, according to Jennifer Drummond, the centre’s coordinator.
SARC already offers several consent and awareness workshops available to faculty, residence assistants and varsity sports teams. Drummond said she hopes these workshops will do more than shed light on sexual assault, but rather educate students and prevent sexual assault from being committed in the first place.

A large part of prevention is about consent which is why these workshops focus on sexual consent as it applies to assault and prevention. It is also important to understand that sexual assault can happen anywhere, be it at clubs or bars, on the streets at night, in classes or at parties—even in your own home. According to statistics provided by SARC, 82 per cent of sexual assaults in Canada are committed by someone the survivor knows. Although the statistics are widely reported, take a moment to really reflect on these numbers. It’s daunting to realize that one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.

This makes it all the more important to speak out about sexual assault and make sure students recognize the behaviour, understand the necessity of consent and have the tools to intervene. We at The Concordian applaud SARC for implementing this workshop as it is one more step towards ensuring the safety of our fellow students. We hope one day these workshops will be mandatory for all students and staff.

The more people learn about sexual assault and understand the realities of it, the easier it will be to de-stigmatize this issue and eradicate it from our campus and community. Open dialogue about rape and assault is the best way for people to understand that these behaviours and actions are unacceptable and will never be okay—nor are they something to joke about. Until we work to ensure our peers are educated about this issue, it will only be that much harder to find solutions and implement change.

The allegations against Weinstein have sparked a conversation, but what needs to happen now is action. We at The Concordian hope to inspire readers to educate themselves about this topic and speak up about the issue. The one positive outcome of this scandal is that it has empowered more survivors to talk about their experiences and educate others about sexual assault and consent. We want to encourage open discussion on the topic of rape and assault, and we hope this leads to more preventative action.

Whether you are a survivor of sexual assault, know someone who is or are just looking to learn more about the issue, Concordia’s SARC is a good place to start. For more information or to reach out for support, call 514-848-2424 ext. 3461 or visit the drop-in centre in the Hall building, H-645.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin 

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