Striving to end violence against women

Hundreds take to Boulevard De Maisonneuve to denounce rape culture and violence

Hundreds came together in solidarity for women’s rights and to challenge rape culture and violence against women, binary and the trans* community on Oct. 26 at Place Émilie-Gamelin.

“On vous croit. On vous croit,” which translates to “We believe you”—the crowd chanted in unison—as supporters marched down Boulevard De Maisonneuve. This chant reflected the crowd’s solidarity with women who have faced violence or have been subjected to rape culture. These are the issues that speakers addressed in an event held just outside of Berri-UQAM metro.

The event, organized by stop à la culture du viol, was created in light of current reports of sexual assault taking place in Université Laval’s Alphonse-Marie-Parent residence. According to the Montreal Gazette, two students who lived in the university residence were arrested on Oct. 21 for break-ins and sexual assaults.

“Violence, and sexual aggressions, are unacceptable,” said President of Quebec’s Native Women’s Association and event speaker, Viviane Michel. Photo by Savanna Craig.

President of Quebec’s Native Women’s Association and event speaker, Viviane Michel,  asked the crowd to take a few moments of silence for the victims. “For me, for her, for you, for us all, we need this moment to underline the importance of these problems,” she said.

“Evidently, there is a huge responsibility that the government has, to give help to the victims, not for the short-term, but for the long term,” said Michel.

Photo by Savanna Craig.

Université du Québec à Montréal student and protester, Vivianne Magnan-St-Onge, said addressing this issue is important for all women as situations of sexual violence can happen anywhere, even on a governmental level, such as with comments and actions made by politicians.

Photo by Savanna Craig.

Marie-Lou Tang Turcotte, a biochemistry student at Concordia University and protester, said some of the announcers drew on the issue surrounding U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s discriminatory comments towards women. Tang Turcotte agreed with the speakers, and said excusing his language as locker room talk allows our society to think it is acceptable for people to speak this way about women.

Photo by Savanna Craig.

Tang Turcotte reflected on another issue that the event’s speakers discussed, that of Lise Thériault, the Quebec’s ministre de la condition féminine, telling the Canadian Press in March that she does not identify as a feminist. Tang Turcotte said this is problematic because, as minister of women, Thériault should accept feminism as it addresses issues of violence towards women. Tang Turcotte said seeing this in our government is an issue, as it further creates a stigma that rape culture and violence against women is not prevalent in Quebec.

Photo by Savanna Craig.

“Together, we must continue to fight. We must continue, together, to say no to all forms of violence,” said Michel to the crowd.


Campus rapist released from prison

Last week, 21-year-old Brock Turner, who was found guilty of sexual assault, was released after serving only three months in jail. Turner was convicted last year after he was found assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in Santa Clara, California, according to the CBC.

The former Stanford University student faced a minimum of two years in prison—with a maximum sentence of 14 years, according to The Huffington Post. He was convicted for six months, and released after three due to good behaviour.

His freedom has sparked outrage across social media, with many expressing their disbelief with Judge Aaron Persky, who granted Turner his freedom.

Turner’s defense relied heavily on the fact that he was a swimmer—a good one, with a bright future ahead of him. The conversation became about Turner and his future, and how the events of that night in Santa Clara would haunt him forever, as if being an athlete somehow diminishes the seriousness of what he did.

This news caused us to spew out our black coffee in disarray here at the offices of The Concordian. How in the world can a person convicted of sexual assault spend just a few weeks in jail? This is absolutely unacceptable, and we believe stricter action needs to be taken when addressing the issue of campus rape and assault.

The issue hits close to home, considering a few individuals on our masthead have experienced some degree of sexual assault. Furthermore, our own university was impacted by the Mei-Ling case that proved Concordia is not immune to campus rape culture. For those unfamiliar with the case, Mei-Ling was a representative of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), and discovered messages between two of her colleagues that portrayed her as an inferior sexual object.

The story broke in The Montreal Gazette and spurred a movement to address rape culture on our campus. We like to think that our university is progressive, with a dedicated Sexual Assault Resource Centre and a Centre for Gender Advocacy, but the fact remains that the measures put in place to enact justice on society still aren’t equipped and willing to deal with this.

On a national level, we saw the media circus surrounding the Jian Ghomeshi trial, and how the legal system essentially focused on the women and tore apart their credibility and dignity. Meanwhile Ghomeshi got off scot-free, even though there had been rumors circulating for years that he was a predator, and that journalism students shouldn’t apply for internships with him, according to the Toronto Star.

We call upon the court in Santa Clara, California to reexamine Brock Turner’s case, considering they are allowing a rapist to walk freely once again after just 90 days. We believe Turner deserves more time in prison to set an example that rape and sexual assault has no place on campus, or in our society. He should pay for his crime.

Turner blamed his actions on alcohol. He blamed campus drinking culture. His father wrote a passionate letter claiming that his son shouldn’t have his life ruined because of “20 minutes of action.” What seems to be lacking from this discourse, however, is how the victim felt, and how these “20 minutes” will forever be the worse minutes of her life. Turner served his sentence. A measly 12 weeks, the length of the average internship. His victim will wear the scars of his attack on her soul for the rest of her life. For her, and all those who have been unjustly taken advantage of and treated as objects rather than people, Turner’s sentence serves as a jarring reminder that, at the end of the day, the burden of sexual assault still rests with the assaulted.


When media coverage goes wrong

Image via Flickr

CNN gained worldwide attention last week but for all the wrong reasons.

When Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were convicted last Sunday of raping and circulating an image of a severely intoxicated 16-year-old West Virginia girl, CNN took a very odd angle in reporting the story.

Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a juvenile correctional facility while Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year.

After the ruling, CNN’s coverage of the story focused on the repercussions going to jail will have on the two high school students rather than the struggle the rape victim will face for the rest of her life.

This tribute was a segment of two CNN reporters, Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowley talking about the two student’s “potential loss” at life after being sentenced and forever identified as sexual offenders.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” Harlow reported live on air to Crowley after witnessing the conviction. “It’s incredibly emotional, even for an outsider like me. These two young men, with promising futures, star football players, A-students, literally watched as their lives fell apart.”

To even state that watching two young men get put to justice and get punished for the sick crime they committed was “emotional” is an absolute outrage, not only to the victim, but to the family of the victim, other rape victims, and the entire world.

Harlow had no right to try to make her viewers pity these two boys. No one cares if they had promising futures now ― people should be more concerned that the victim clearly had just as much of a promising future and will now live a very different life because of this traumatic event.

Watching the CNN footage, it is clear within the first couple minutes that the two reporters are empathizing with the sex offenders and barely mentioning the victim.

To me, this is absolutely absurd and wrong on so many levels. How about the struggles the girl will face now and for the rest of her life? Not only was she raped, she was humiliated by having images of herself posted on the Internet. If that isn’t enough, she has also been the target of several death threats because she was brave enough to report her rape.

It is in the best interest of the network and the journalists to cover this story without a slanted angle, and remain as neutral as possible. This media coverage even caused an online petition, that to date has already 205,000 signatures, demanding an apology from CNN for their coverage which “is nothing short of disgusting.”

Paul Callan, legal contributor at CNN, stated that “the court room is filled with tears, a tragedy.” I can call this so many things, but tragedy is not one of them. How is holding people accountable for their actions and serving them justice a tragedy?

Those boys had a choice and they chose to rape an innocent girl, film it, then share it on the Internet. She had no choice.

We shouldn’t feel guilty or empathize with these two sexual offenders but be happy that they are put to justice and are punished, a punishment they clearly deserve.


Rape culture in our own backyard

Sparks are flying in India after the country was left in shock and disgust following the gang rape, brutal beating and subsequent death of a young Indian student.

Many are quick to criticize India and its so-called rape culture, yet they seem to forget that this mentality isn’t sedentary, it travels far and wide. It isn’t one country’s problem — it’s our problem as well.

Let’s take a look at North America. One in six American women and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

According to a 2004 Statistics Canada General Social Survey, only one in 10 women report sexual assault to the police. Why? The same survey states 58 per cent of women thought it wasn’t important enough.

Now tell me, what backwards society do we live in where a sexually assaulted female is conditioned to believe that what happened to her is “not important enough?”

I’ll answer my own question.

A society filled with victim blaming and slut-shaming from both genders that makes me cringe. A society filled with those who claim a woman is “asking for it” by the way she dresses. There is no way to invite rape because the opposite of rape is consent.

It’s where we see examples of children who become sexual offenders. According to an article published in The Telegraph last year, a slew of elementary school students were arrested in the United Kingdom for sexual assault and “suspected rape.”

It’s a culture desensitized to such a brutal act of power and control that we don’t even realize how pervasive it is. Where pornography glorifies rape, and the media portrays violence as sexy and sex as violent.

It’s a society where young women have to worry about walking home after supper, putting up with drivers slowing down to catcall and shout out profanities.

It’s a country where a Canadian woman is sexually assaulted every 17 minutes, according to the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Julie Michaud, an administrative coordinator for the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, believes that a real tolerance has blossomed towards people trivializing rape.

“The fact that rape and sexual assault are unfortunately much more common than they should be doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be seen as a big deal,” she said.

It isn’t just bad people who rape. We like to cast villains in life to make things simpler, but in most cases it’s the people we trust. While women are standing up, men also play a large role in making change.

“It’s not enough to be a guy that doesn’t sexually assault, they need to take an active role,” said Michaud.

I don’t want to raise my future children in such a small-minded and frankly dangerous culture. I want them to be open and free, and not worry about their innocence being stolen. We cannot put all the blame on our justice system for not being tough enough while we sit back and breed these characters.

So, don’t put up with the demeaning comments and remarks. Don’t encourage the trivialization of a severe issue. Don’t be so smug when criticizing other countries for their shortcomings. Promote respect and healthy relationships. Enough is enough.

The Gender Advocacy Centre is campaigning for a Sexual Assault Centre for victims of abuse. If interested in volunteering, visit


Taking back the night one step at a time

Photo by Celia Ste Croix

Take Back the Night! is an annual tradition taking place in multiple major cities around the world. About 60 protesters gathered at Norman Bethune square last Friday to condemn gender violence, sexual assault and what organizers call the “rape culture” in which we live.

Organized this year by Concordia University’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, the Take Back the Night! event started with a succession of speeches and performances from various Montreal-based associations.

“We live in a culture where rape and sexual assault are normalized and expected,” said Julie Michaud, administrative co-ordinator at the 2110 Centre. Michaud explained that the notion of women attracting predators by wearing short skirts or revealing clothes when walking alone at night reinforces the idea that sexual assault is expected.

Associations touched upon a range of topics but the nature of the message stayed strong from one speaker to another. Québec Trans Health Action, a group for the rights of transgendered people, condemned the dynamic of fear and exclusion in which certain individuals, especially sex workers, are forced to live in. The Action des Femmes Handicapées described the violent nature of the “circle of dependence” in which physically disabled women live.

Finally, the pro-choice Reproductive Justice League performed a chorus enumerating the many ways a person can say “no” to sex, from “I’m tired” to “I’m not sure” to simple silence.

The march started around 7:45 p.m. and carried on for an hour through the main arteries of downtown Montreal.

“It’s something I’ll never understand as well as [women] do, but marching in an event like this one gives me a better understanding,” said protester Andrew Hogg. “The problems of sexual assault are usually hidden and are personal things that often people don’t talk about. I also don’t think most men talk enough about sexual assault.”

On the way back to Concordia a seemingly confused bystander exclaimed, “Is that really a protest against sexual assault?”

The bystander, Peter — who declined to give his last name — was on a cigarette break outside the restaurant he works at when he saw the march passing on De Maisonneuve Blvd.

“Everybody is against rape,” Peter told The Concordian. “I don’t see the point for a protest and blocking the street for something everyone agrees on.”

This type of argument is common in today’s society and translates a misunderstanding about the nature of sexual assault, according to Felix Chu, a volunteer at the 2110 Centre.

“The problem is people don’t know what sexual assault is,” said Chu. “We have such a pervasive rape culture where saying a verbal no is the only thing that [will make] people … take no for an answer. But there are some people that will coerce and emotionally blackmail, especially in university settings where there is so much date rape. People won’t call it rape. That’s what we’re trying to change.”

The 2110 Centre has been campaigning for a number of years to have Concordia follow the example of McGill and the University of Alberta and create a sexual assault centre in order to welcome and help victims of sexual assault, as well as educate students on what consent is.

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