The story of a sexual assault survivor

After a negative experience with SARC, Concordia student decided to turn to his Indigenous roots to heal.

After Salim, a former Concordia student, dropped out of school following his negative experience with the Sexual Assault and Resource Centre (SARC), he wanted to heal. He decided to escape from what he knew about healing to finally find peace. For anonymity purposes, The Concordian is only using his first name.

Before his life changed, Salim was a history student and a member of the Concordia University Catholic Student Association (CUCSA). He had friends in the association, but when he came out to them as gay, “they rejected [him] entirely,” he said. 

When he told his other friends what had happened, they were not as supportive as he hoped. Several stayed by his side, but for the most part, it was a long and winding road back to a better place. 

“I don’t feel that the religious clubs are really prepared yet—not only for 2SLGBTQ+ issues, but also sexual assault issues,” said Salim.

On Jan. 29, Salim was raped by a non-student off-campus. The experience traumatized him, and he went to the SARC for help. 

During his first session, he told his counsellor about this incident and that he was having passive suicidal thoughts. Even though Salim was clear about The counsellor, Salim said, had a “look of panic on her face.” 

“She was calling a lot of people and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not getting out of this session on my own.’ I was frozen because I just couldn’t do anything,” said Salim. “This was out of my control already. I didn’t have any say in what happened next. It was really tough. I got escorted to an ambulance by the Concordia security guard in front of everybody. The whole campus saw me. It was really, really embarrassing.”

The ambulance drove him to Jean-Talon hospital. He was left alone in the waiting room, so he decided to leave and go home.

“I didn’t think anything else was going to happen,” said Salim.

But when he arrived home, two police officers were waiting inside beside his parents. They told him that he had to go back to Jean-Talon hospital.

He arrived at the hospital and was locked in a room. There were no windows and no pillows, and he was forbidden from using his phone. The only thing in the room was a small bed with a seat belt. Salim was put on suicide watch, and became completely cut off from the world.

He was locked in that room for 16 hours before seeing a psychiatrist. During that time, a nurse only checked up on him once. 

“I think it was my normal reaction to just scream and kick the door so they could let me out. I never thought I would be in that kind of situation in my life,” said Salim.

He recalled that most people in the emergency room were minorities. Salim is a descendant of the Quechua nation, from the Andes mountains of South America. 

As an Indigenous man, he witnessed how different the treatment was towards minority groups in hospital facilities. After being sent to the hospital a second time, Salim went back to SARC for another session. He was still struggling and confessed that he was having suicidal thoughts. The counsellor had the same panicked reaction as before. 

He recalled that she got frustrated with him regarding how much time had passed since he got raped. She asked him, “It’s already been a few months, you should be over it by now. Why are you still sad?”

“The incompetence I felt, the helplessness I felt—I was basically left alone. Mostly what [SARC] does, if anything, they will send you an email: ‘Are you alright? How are you doing?’ And that’s it,” said Salim. “Basically, they won’t do anything else unless you tell them to do so.”

SARC was the only resource Salim knew about. The centre he thought would help him did the complete opposite. He does not know if the treatment from SARC is different for Indigenous students. He is concerned for these students that they may not get the treatment they deserve. 

The Concordian reached out to SARC for an interview but has not heard back.

“I don’t know for Indigenous students, if the process is different on their centre that they have, but I can’t imagine if there’s an Indigenous student who faces sexual assault, what kind of help they’re going to get,” said Salim. “It’s going to be even worse for them going to SARC, because I don’t think they [SARC] are trained in Indigenous visions of health and healing.”

Salim realized that Western medicine was not the cure for his trauma. No amount of medication was going to dial down the traumatic symptoms he was feeling. 

“The whole psychiatric and psychological modern institution that we have is also rooted in colonial investigation and colonial visions of what is health, what is illness,” he said.

He decided to explore the roots of his Quechua ancestors and reconnect with his culture. Salim realized that he needed to shed what he knew about healing and modern science, and tune into himself to heal. 

“I think that decolonizing myself also told me that, you know, that nature is with me and that I’m part of this whole entire thing [existence]. So nature healed me,” said Salim.

“It was something necessary for me. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen this way, but in the end, I’m very thankful that Mother Nature, Pachamama, as we call Mother Earth, took me back in her arms.”

Salim “remembered the knowledge his ancestors gave him”, by simply being present with nature, going to the park, and feeling its beauty. He recalls facing the sun, and acknowledging the heat he received from “his father, the sun, Tata Inti in Quechua, hugging him with his light. 

“Now, I look at [Tata Inti] and see “oh dad, there you are,” said Salim. 

As he looks at the trees, he acknowledges them that they are his brothers. As he sits on the grass, he is sitting on his mother, Pachamama’s, lap and she welcomes him home, letting him know he is safe.


Concordia honours sexual assault and violence survivors during Consent and Care week

The week of Nov. 6 was Consent and Care week at Concordia, dedicated to support, honour and love sexual assault and violence survivors. The Sexual Assault and Violence Centre (SARC) hosted a week-long series of events, including a love letters to survivors workshop, lectures and many more. 

According to Jenna Rose, the SARC’s project coordinator, this is the first week-long event series for Consent and Care week hosted by the SARC. However, the centre’s reputation might be hindering their message.

SARC started the week with an event titled “How to create a safety plan,” which focused on helping someone in a violent situation and preparing an escape plan.

The “Practice active bystander intervention” workshop on Tuesday highlighted “the importance of intervening when we hear and/or see violence in order to build a safe and supportive community,” as detailed in the event’s description on Concordia’s website. 

On the interactive and artistic side, the SARC collaborated with Concordia Art Hives for the “Love letters to survivors” art workshop, where students and survivors created loving, supportive and empowering messages to honour survivors. 

On Wednesday, during the Sexual Health and Pleasure community fair, Rose believed the small number of students who attended the event was due to its novelty.

“I think with these [new events], a lot of people won’t know about them right away,” Rose said. “I know that Ontarian universities have their Consent and Care week events in April during Sexual Assault Awareness month. We might do the same next year.”

Salim, a former Concordia student, dropped out of school after his experience with the SARC. For anonymity purposes, The Concordian is using only his first name. He was not fully aware of what the planned events were, yet he feels this is not the best way to invite students to see the SARC when needed.

“I seriously doubt that those kinds of events are having the reach that they want, because most of the students who went through [the SARC], we don’t trust them,” Salim said. “So, we are obviously not going to attend anything that they are hosting. We’re not interested.”

Concordia has a long history of controversial accusations from victims, who claim the university has not done enough to keep students safe. In 2013, the university created the SARC. In 2018, CBC reported that six students had filed complaints against Concordia to Quebec’s Human Rights Commission since 2012. 

Since then, several policies on sexual assault and violence have been created, along with the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Committee (SMSV) in 2018. The SMSV has also been subjected to several scandals, such as being unsupportive and insensitive towards survivors. As a result, many students feel that Concordia still has not done enough regarding sexual assault and violence.

Salim is one of the many survivors who had negative experiences with the SARC, and he does not see these events as a gateway towards resolution. 

“It’s just so insulting to all of us [survivors],” Salim said. “It’s really sad for me because I know that this is not over and I’m not the last one. A lot of people are going to suffer because of the SARC.”

The Concordian reached out to other SARC members for an interview but has not heard back in time for the publication of this article.


  • In a previous version of this article, in the fifth paragraph, it was noted that one of the events, “Love letters to survivors”, was art therapy. That was not correct. The event was an art workshop, not therapeutic.
  • In the tenth paragraph, it was written that SARC was created after six student filed complaints to the Human Rights Commission. This is false. SARC was created after students collaborated with the university to create a safer campus. Also, in the following sentence, the CBC article cited did not match the timeliness of the previous sentence. We rearranged the wording to ensure the timelines matched in their respective contexts.

We apologize and take full responsibility for our mistakes.

Editorial: Mandatory sexual assault training a step in the right direction

The deadline of Oct. 4 to complete Concordia University’s mandatory sexual violence and prevention training, “It Takes All of Us”, is only a couple days away at the time of publication.

Concordia partnered with the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) and Knowledge One to create the online training. The training walks students and staff through a series of scenarios, definitions and education on what sexual violence means, especially on campus.

Over the past years, The Concordian has covered several stories regarding sexual violence at Concordia, including the recent sexual assault scandal in the university’s English department. The Concordian believes this training is a positive first step towards improving sexual violence education among students and staff.

But a step in the right direction doesn’t mean that the issue is suddenly solved, or that the university has done enough. It was only two years ago that Concordia ranked last among 15 Canadian universities in terms of sexual assault policies in the “Our Turn: A National, Student-Led Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence” report released Oct. 11, 2018.

Based on the reaction we heard from students, most believed that the training would have a positive impact on the Concordia community. Which is good, students should feel as though their university is moving in the right direction. Part of that process includes the university’s “Report of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence” that was released its findings two years ago. In it, the task force found that students had very little idea about where and how to actually report sexual violence on campus. This needs to change.

While The Concordian agrees that constructive, well-thought out training and education on the topic of sexual violence is always positive, education is only the beginning of truly affecting change. Definite and effective action from the university is necessary. Enforcing those policies that help reduce sexual violence, making necessary resources readily accessible on campus and reducing the barriers of reporting sexual violence to the university are the next steps towards making the Concordia campuses safer for all students and staff.

At the end of the day, this training is for the Concordia community. Part of this week’s editorial is dedicated to hearing from the community. We asked Concordia students about their thoughts on the training.

“Even as someone who considers myself fairly educated on consent and sexual assault awareness, I found the training super informative,” said fourth-year student Candice Pye. “It was also extremely easy to follow and quick to do. While a lot still needs to be done in terms of properly supporting survivors and preventing sexual violence at Concordia, I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction”

“I think it was a great idea and they did a good job at explaining what you should do in specific situations,” said second-year student Isabela Brandão. “I like the fact that they included what you should do to help someone that went through something like that and that they had slides for multiple types of situations. It was more than I expected. I thought it would be focus on strategies to avoid sexual assault (as it usually is) but they had information like, how to tell if your partner is unable to consent, different types of consent and for the most part the presentation was gender neutral. Overall, I think they did a fantastic job.”

“I think these trainings are always better in person due to their sensitive nature, however due to the size of the university I understand how that’s not possible,” said fourth-year student Becki Seguin. “I think sexual assault is difficult to navigate because there’s so many different components to try and include. That being said I think they did a great job. It was definitely prevention-based, but could have still touched a little more on victim support.”

Concordia implemented its most recent policies on sexual violence in September. Now’s the time to see if the university will deliver on action, as well as education.


Photo by Alex Hutchins


It Takes All of Us: Eradicating On-Campus Sexual Violence

Following the requirements enforced by 2017’s bill 151 on preventing and fighting sexual violence in higher education institutions, Concordia University partnered with the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) and Knowledge One to develop online training for all faculty members, including students and staff. As a result, It takes all of us offers guidelines, scenarios and definitions of what sexual violence means.

The mandatory training, which can be found through MyConcordia’s webpage, tackles myths and facts of either assault or harassment while defining what consent is. For Jennifer Drummond, coordinator for the SARC, it’s especially crucial during the first weeks of a new semester to provide everyone with the right information, which research has shown to be the time of year most prone to sexual violence.

“It’s a huge issue and a hard one,” Drummond said. “It really takes everyone to participate in training and increasing their knowledge around this issue to participate in preventing sexual violence.”

According to the Canadian Federation of Students, many on-campus sexual assaults occur during the first eight weeks of classes. It suggests a number of factors, some of which are moving away from home for the first time, being in a new city, or not having a lot of friends to rely on yet.

And then there’s Frosh. It’s known to anyone who has ever attended a college or university – or even just watched any American college movie – these Frosh weeks lead to parties and events inevitably full of risky situations. Drummond says drugs and alcohol are definitely a factor in sexual violence, not in terms of ever blaming someone for being a victim of sexual violence, but more about people perpetuating sexual violence as a result of using drugs and alcohol. But is understanding the difference and changing such mentalities feasible via online training?

“There is always more education and more awareness that needs to be done,” Drummond said. “This is a huge topic and it affects a lot of people. I think it’s important to remember that changing culture is a long-term project. This is one part of that and it’s going to get everyone on our campus to have a shared language around this.”

Online training is an interesting format when you try to reach as many people as possible, while in-person training for a campus community of over 50 thousand people is not realistic, Drummond said. The university consulted with faculty, students and staff – including survivors of sexual violence – to gather suggestions and feedback throughout the process. Various visuals and audio projects along with statistics can be paused or skipped by hitting the button I feel overwhelmed – this button was designed for people who might experience flashbacks from past assault.

Obviously, it’s more than useful to have all the information gathered in one place. Such training, especially given that it’s mandatory, will help to get everyone on the same level of knowledge and awareness. Drummond also hopes it will allow people to engage in more complicated conversations around subjects that are hard to tackle.

Yet, while the training provides many scenarios illustrating sexual violence between students on and off-campus, It takes all of us missed the chance to include student-teacher scenarios. For the past few years, Concordia has received a great number of sexual assault and harassment complaints towards its staff members. It would have been empowering for a university to acknowledge that these situations exist, and even greater to include them in their mandatory sexual violence training. Unfortunately, this dimension of on-campus sexual violence is hardly addressed; in fact, it’s only brought up at the very end of the 45-minute video, through links to external documents.

According to the SARC, there is a second version of the training intended for faculty staff. It focuses further on power dynamics and guidelines for student-faculty interactions, whether romantic or sexual. On Jan. 26, 2018, the university issued new guidelines addressing the unequal, institutional power dynamics within instructor-student relationships. These guidelines, along with the mandatory training, is part of the provincial government’s effort to fight sexual violence across universities and colleges.

All faculty members have until Oct. 4 to complete the training for the fall semester and a series of warning emails will be sent as the date approaches. But Concordia’s seriousness in dealing with sexual violence truly reveals itself through the ultimate sanction of denying access to winter class registration to any student who hasn’t completed the training.

“People are feeling great that their university is taking steps on this issue and really being ambitious in terms of the deadline for people to complete it,” said Drummond. ”It is everyone’s responsibility to engage and help prevent [sexual violence] from happening.”

The tone is set.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


De-stress yourself before you wreck yourself

Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre co-hosts Self-Care Week

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) is hosting a Self-Care Week at Concordia in collaboration with the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Health Services, Counselling and Psychological Services and several other groups.

“We wanted to host a self-care week to provide opportunities for individuals in our community to de-stress, cope, break isolation and try out some new activities that might resonate with them,” said SARC coordinator Jennifer Drummond.

Until March 9, students can attend a variety of workshops and presentations focusing on self-care and wellbeing, exploring topics like mindfulness, stress management, herbalism, artistic expression and communication.

Self-care generally encompasses acts of love for one’s own physical, mental or emotional health. According to Drummond, self-care, at its core, is “an activity or practice that helps you de-stress, feel good or cope with life.” Essentially, it involves putting yourself first and making sure you are in a good place physically and mentally.

Many people tend to cope with stress, strong emotions or unwanted situations in negative ways. According to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia, a negative coping strategy can be distinguished from a positive coping strategy by evaluating its effectiveness in both the short-term and long-term. Negative coping strategies tend to provide temporary stress relief, but may increase the amount of stress we experience in the long term. These often include activities that promote avoidance and distraction, such as procrastinating or relying on drugs and alcohol to escape stressful problems.

While negative coping strategies might help someone feel relaxed for a short period of time, true self-care promotes long-term physical and emotional health. This means using more positive coping techniques, like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and scheduling time for yourself.

Drummond said she hopes to increase student awareness of the services available at Concordia.

“There are a lot of great resources on campus,” she said. “We wanted to have diverse activities and workshops available during the week.”

Drummond said this week of events will give Concordia students a chance to take a break, have meaningful conversations and connect with others.

“Starting small is one way to implement something new into your regular routine, like trying a self-care practice that is short or easy to do, or even doing something once a week instead of feeling like you need to incorporate something every day,” she said. “Self care is whatever works for you.”


(See Facebook event for details and RSVP info)

Tuesday, March 6

Guided Conversation

Multi-Faith & Spirituality Centre

2090 Mackay St.

2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.


Beading Workshop

Aboriginal Student Resource Centre

Hall building, 6th floor, room 640

3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Plant Sale

Concordia Greenhouse

Hall building, 13th floor

5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.


Wednesday, March 7

Insomnia and Poor Sleep

Health Services, Counselling and Psychological Services

GM Building, 2nd floor, Room 200

12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.


Indigenous Art Workshop

Centre for Gender Advocacy

Hall building, 6th floor, Room 640

2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Thursday, March 8

Stress Management Workshop

Health Services

GM Building, 2nd floor, Room 200

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.


Herbalism and Stress Workshop


Hall building, 6th floor, Room 640

3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.


Friday, March 9

Mindfulness Workshop

Counselling and Psychological Services

Hall building, 6th floor, Room 640

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.



“I journal a couple of times a week to check in on myself. That’s usually when I figure out what is bothering me and I make plans to improve my situation. It’s cleansing.” – Cynthia Larche

“I used to be bingeing stuff on Netflix, but since I switched into computer sciences, I started reading to relax. It feels much better, since I usually stare at a screen all day to work.” – Isaac Abramowitz

“Time managing your homework and work schedule so that there’s time where you can just relax, as opposed to being constantly busy.” – Salena Wiener

“When I know I’ve had a really tough day, before I go to bed, I just sit in bed cross-legged with a fuzzy blanket over my shoulders. I close my eyes and focus myself on what my senses are feeling. It’s basically a mindfulness technique that places me in the moment.” – Jonathan Roy

“Being a student, I really need something non school-related in my schedule! I signed up for intramurals as a way to make sure my brain would get a break every once in a while.” – Gabrielle Lametti

“Learning to not feel guilty about saying no to going out when you don’t want to. Learning to not feel guilty about eating St-Hubert on the couch and watching Netflix.” – Emma Loerick

“Meditating every single day.” – Anaïs Venegas-Grün

“Sad, angry, depressing music helps me deal with my emotions, as opposed to keeping them in.” – Edgar Jose Becerra Granados

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Taking action to prevent sexual assault

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 


The fight to end sexual violence at Concordia

Have Your Say survey aims to shed light on the way Concordia deals with sexual violence

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) are creating a report based on results from a survey that sought student input on the way Concordia handles cases of sexual violence on campus. The report will be published this week and presented to Concordia University’s administration and the Quebec minister of education.

Before filling out the survey, students were invited to a “Have Your Say” event held on March 16, where they were informed about the consultations the Quebec government is hosting to examine sexual violence at the province’s universities and CEGEP. The consultations hosted by Higher Education Minister Hélène David were held in Montreal, Quebec City, Gatineau and Saguenay during the month of March.

Stacey Gomez, the action coordinator for the CGA, said the survey collected student feedback on how the Quebec government can respond to and prevent sexual violence on its university campuses.

“Our hope is to come up with a report that highlights student recommendations around how the campus can be a safer place, and how to better respond to sexual violence on campus,” Gomez said.

Lana Elinor Galbraith, the sustainability coordinator for the CSU and the person writing the report, said she hopes the report will encourage the university to create an actionable plan which will incorporate students’ suggestions.

In January, Galbraith attended a conference where student unions across Quebec were invited to discuss how different universities are handling matters of sexual assault. She was disappointed to learn that Concordia is one of the only universities that is relatively advanced. “We are the only ones that have a Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) that’s paid for by the university and run by the university.” SARC offers support to students, faculty and staff who have been impacted by sexual harassment or assault.

Among the feedback gathered from the survey, Gomez said improving the services offered by the SARC was an important recommendation. “One of the things that came out of the Have Your Say event … was the need to have more resources for SARC and more staff,” Gomez said.

“For a long time, there was only one staff person for the entire campus. Now there are two,” she said, adding there is also a team of volunteers at the SARC.

“As we know, sexual violence on campus is a major issue, and so that’s not enough resources to be able to support students,” Gomez said.

In addition, Gomez said mandatory consent training was suggested for students at the university, particularly for those living in residence or involved in frosh.

“Many students mentioned that they did not feel supported by staff at the university, profs and also security,” Gomez said. She said the survey mentioned it would be beneficial for these parties to receive training on how to support survivors and address sexual violence. This would ensure that those in positions of power on campus “can be more understanding, more empathetic and more accommodating to students who are experiencing difficulties as a result of having experienced sexual violence,” Gomez said.

Graphic by Florence Yee

Fo Niemi, the co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a small Montreal-based non-profit civil rights organization that has handled 15 cases involving students at Concordia, weighed in on how Concordia’s security often handles reports of sexual assault.

“One of the things that comes back often is that they complain security staff are usually trained to handle crowds, demonstrations, security concerns such as … or terrorism or emergencies, but not the aspect of what we call the human violence,” Niemi said.

According to Niemi, CRARR has been in contact with some women who have brought forth legal action against universities in Ontario and B.C. where they were assaulted or harassed.

“We’re not sure [if the way security handles complaints] has really been looked at in an objective manner or a more transparent manner, and I think that is the key thing,” Niemi said. “Some cases we’ve heard is that security, either they don’t know how to deal with it or sometimes they themselves may do something that could possibly put the victims or the survivors in a very uncomfortable position—even if they mean well,” Niemi said.

Jennifer Drummond, the coordinator of the SARC, said many individuals in positions of power at Concordia already receive training. “All different parts of the Concordia community receive training on [sexual assault awareness and bystander intervention], including the security department, upper administrators and the president’s executive group,” Drummond said. “Part of SARC’s education plan, as outlined in the Sexual Assault Working Group’s report recommendation, is to continue to expand the number of groups that receive these trainings—which will include faculty and staff in frontline positions.”

Drummond believes the university has taken the right strides in preventing and responding to sexual violence. “Implementing a sexual violence policy … and having a sexual assault centre with individuals able to accompany the survivor through both internal and external processes can encourage reporting and are evidence of an institution that takes this issue seriously,” Drummond said. “We see female, male and trans* survivors. There are some resources that we provide that are specific to male and trans survivors,” she added.

Drummond said these steps can encourage students to come forward about their experiences with sexual violence. However, many cases are dismissed, go undocumented and, therefore, don’t make it into larger databases about sexual assault.

“Research suggests that less than 10 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police,” said Drummond. In addition, she said it can be expected within schools for there to be low numbers of reports, as survivors in institutions face various barriers in disclosing and reporting a case of sexual assault.

According to a 2015-2016 report released by Concordia, 16 complaints of sexual assault were made to the university during that year, with only three of these complaints resulting in a hearing or investigation. During the 2014-2015 school year, 16 complaints were made to the Office of Rights and Responsibilities under the category of “sexual harassment.” During this time, there was not a stand-alone policy specifically for sexual assault at Concordia. Instead, data of harassment and assault were both categorized under sexual harassment.

In a 20-month investigation into authorities’ management of sexual assault cases, conducted by The Globe and Mail, it was discovered that one in five sexual assault allegations in Canada are viewed as groundless, resulting in them being dismissed and unfounded—meaning the allegations were not taken seriously, leading the accusation being dismissed rather than documented. Once a case is dismissed, it is no longer considered a legitimate allegation, according to the report.  In this investigation, it was revealed 19.39 per cent of cases in Canada are unfounded, almost twice as high as the rate for physical assault.

The Globe and Mail curated this information by filing 250 access to information requests with police services across the country and requested data from 1,100 jurisdictions. The investigation included responses from 873 jurisdictions, which accounts for 92 per cent of the Canadian population.

In Montreal, the same investigation revealed that, over a five year period, 1,256 out of 6,893 allegations—just over 18 per cent—were identified as unfounded.

Graphic by Pauline Soumet

The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) launched a Sexual Assault Awareness Week on March 27. The week aims to raise awareness of sexual assault not only at McGill, but in the broader Montreal community, by hosting events and workshops between March 27 and 31.

While neither Concordia nor SARC host a sexual assault awareness week, university spokesperson Chris Mota said, “We see every day as an opportunity to raise awareness.” Mota added that SARC has upcoming events, including an open house on Wednesday, March 29. The SARC will also be holding an event on Thursday, April 13 to summarize the consultations held in Montreal by the Quebec government in March.

“Concordia was the first university in Canada to create the position of Sexual Harassment Advisor in 1987, and one of the first to adopt a policy on sexual harassment in the early 1990s,” Mota said.

“In 2013, Concordia launched the Sexual Assault Resource Centre to inform the campus community about consent, prevention and survivor support,” Mota said. “We felt it was an important step in supporting our community by providing services that specifically deal with sexual assault, given the issue of sexual assaults on campuses across Canada.”

Niemi said he has noticed some sexual violence cases at the university level may be prolonged or have unnecessary delays—there is the issue of the level of adequate support that is really given to the women. Niemi said he has not seen a difference in the way cases of sexual assault or harassment have been dealt with by the university since SARC has been implemented.

“For a student [body] of so many thousands of students with so much diversity [to] have only one person, Jennifer Drummond … She can be a superwoman, but she can’t address all of these things,” Niemi said. “They need at least three to four people in that office in addition to our support staff in order to work.”

SARC recently hired a service assistant and relocated for greater accessibility on campus. Fifteen people currently make up the SARC’s volunteer team.

When asked about expansion in terms of the team and the centre’s presence on campus, Drummond said, “SARC is still a very new service at Concordia and I expect, as time goes on, we will continue to expand our team and presence on campus.”


Increasing sexual assault awareness on campus

One in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime, according to Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC). This issue will impact virtually all women in this country, and we must act now in order to safeguard our society.

McGill University is hosting a Sexual Assault Awareness Week from March 27 to 31, and we at The Concordian applaud them for doing so. We wish Concordia would follow suit.

According to Concordia University’s spokesperson Chris Mota, every day is a day to recognize the impacts of sexual assault, but as of now, Concordia doesn’t have a specific week dedicated to it. We believe the university should dedicate an entire week to this issue. Of course, in an ideal world, sexual assault would always be recognized. Actually, in an ideal world, sexual assault wouldn’t even exist. But, as we’re sure you can tell, real life isn’t always positive and hopeful.

Real life requires time dedicated to educating students, staff and citizens about sexual assault.

SARC posts statistics about sexual assault on their website, one of which states that, across Canada, 82 per cent of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows. Also, one in six men will experience sexual violence at some time in their life. It’s troubling to know these facts exist, but this is what makes a week dedicated to educating university students about sexual violence so essential.

It’s a hard fact that sexual assault is an ongoing issue, and has been since the beginning of time. According to CBC News, a 15-year-old girl was recently raped by five or six men in Chicago, and the violent act was posted on Facebook Live. Forty people watched the video—yet none called the police to report it.

A 14-year-old boy was recently accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student at Heritage Regional High School in St. Hubert, according to CJAD. Longueuil police confirmed they are investigating allegations made by two other students about the same boy as well.

In December 2016, Gilles Deguire, a former Montreal politician and ex-police officer, pleaded guilty to sexually touching a minor, and was sentenced to six months behind bars.

These recent news events clearly show sexual assault is something that still needs to be discussed and acknowledged—especially early signs, so that it can be prevented. It’s important to talk about sexual violence, and it’s important to ask questions. One of the many root causes of sexual assault can be a lack of understanding, an issue which can be remedied by education.

We at The Concordian believe SARC should create a one-week workshop series to address various topics that relate to sexual assault—from the bystander effect, consent, and to the ways in which sexual violence can be prevented. We absolutely cannot ignore the great amount of work SARC has done to improve sexual assault awareness at Concordia, though—they’re a great resource, and have always been active when trying to prevent sexual violence and educating others. A one-week interactive workshop series, however, can improve their services and improve the overall education of sexual assault. Of course, sexual assault should be acknowledged as an issue every single day. But in the world we live in, it’s rare that it is—and perhaps a proper, educational initiative can help increase people’s understanding of sexual violence and how to prevent it.


SARC re-opens its doors in the Hall building

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre moves to a new, comfortable-yet-private location

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) opened the doors to its new office in the Hall building on Feb. 10, welcoming students to a more open and accessible space.

SARC is a Concordia service which offers support to students, faculty and staff who have been impacted by sexual harassment or assault.

The centre is now located in H-645 in the Hall building on the downtown campus. It was previously located on the third floor of the GM building since SARC’s inception in the fall of 2013.

“I think that moving to the Hall building represents an important step for us in terms of our growth and also in terms of our visibility,” said Jennifer Drummond, the SARC coordinator. “I think the Hall building has greater student traffic.”

Drummond said the new SARC office is still in a private area. “Students coming to access our services will still have that privacy and confidentiality,” said Drummond.

The new office is not only larger, but it has a reception area for students waiting to attend an appointment.

“I think a reception is really important because it not only provides support to the volunteers at the drop-in, but also, to me, it provides a safe landing spot for someone when they first show up to SARC,” said Drummond. “Especially if they’re a bit nervous, it gives them a private area to wait and relax before deciding whether or not they want to go into the drop-in [centre].”

Drummond’s previous office was located in a small room off of a hallway in the GM building. Drummond said if she was in a meeting and her door was closed, it may have felt unwelcoming for someone who had had difficulty coming to SARC in the first place.

“Coming up against a closed door can be really upsetting, especially if you’re already having a hard time getting there in the first place,” said Drummond. “You work up this courage and you get to the door and the door is closed—that can be detrimental to someone’s recovery and process in getting help, and they may never come back.”

In terms of SARC becoming more prevalent on campus, Drummond said moving the office to a more evident spot on campus was an important step.

“We are holding a big event on March 2. It’s in collaboration with the Atwater Library and Computer Centre and their project about eliminating cyber violence against women and young girls,” said Drummond. “We are collaborating with them to do an event about responding to and preventing cyber violence, and that can include gender-based cyber violence, online harassment or abuse of a sexual nature.”

“We’re going to continue to have events like that each semester,” said Drummond.

SARC is open Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To make an appointment or for any other inquiries, email or call 514-848-2424 ext. 3461 to reach the drop-in centre.

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