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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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The Night is Not Enough protest takes over Phillips Square

The march aims to be more inclusive of all people battling sexual violence

On Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m. the A Safer Concordia campaign, run by the university’s Centre for Gender Advocacy, hosted a march called “The Night is Not Enough,” which took place at Phillips Square in downtown Montreal. The goal was to demonstrate that the annual “Take Back the Night” march is not inclusive enough, as women are not the only ones who may face sexual violence.

Photo by Ana Hernandez.

According to Jada Joseph, a volunteer for the A Safer Concordia campaign and a Concordia psychology and child studies student, “The Night is Not Enough” aims to be a more inclusive protest for all people who have faced sexual assault, not just women.

Joseph said the march is not only calling out to all genders to participate, but also to all races as well as sex workers and individuals from the LGBTQ+ community.

Spoken word artist Shanice Nicole performing before the march. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

“We’re definitely taking a more inclusive alternative to the ‘Take Back the Night,’” she said. Joseph explained that “Take Back the Night” implies that gender violence only occurs at nighttime, when in fact gender violence is a continuum—it can start with cat-calling and escalate from there. “We are saying that the night is not enough,” she said.

Photo by Ana Hernandez.

“Sexual violence and gender violence is very pervasive in our society,” said Madison Kompagna, a Concordia student majoring in sociology and minoring in women’s studies. She said there is a very strong narrative in our society in which sexual violence only happens to women and only occurs at night. “It’s important that this event exists because it’s more inclusive of everybody,” Kompagna said.

If you or someone you know has encountered sexual violence and would like support, Concordia has resources on campus to help.

The Centre for Gender Advocacy is located at 2110 Mackay St., Sir George William campus. Hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can call The Centre for Gender Advocacy at (514) 848-2424 ext. 7431. For peer support call (514) 848-2424 ext. 7880.

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre is located at GM-300.27. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can reach them at (514) 848-2424 ext. 3461 or ext. 3353.
If you are in immediate danger at Concordia University call campus security at 514-848-3717.

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