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.


CSU, GSA and TRAC withdraw from Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence

Three student organizations — the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), and the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union — announced their withdrawal from the University’s Policy Advisory Committee on sexual violence on Oct.5. 

During their press conference outside of the Hall building, student representatives announced their decision to no longer participate in Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence due to ignored demands and mishandled complaints. 

The committee is made up of students, staff, and faculty with the goal of raising awareness to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence on campus.

Alan Shepard, President of Concordia between 2012-19, announced the establishment of the task force on sexual misconduct and sexual violence in Jan. 2018, following several harassment allegations within the University’s Creative Writing program. 

Since then, student representatives like Vice President of TRAC Becca Wilgosh have shared their disappointment in the lack of transparency and resources for students. 

“We’ve talked a couple of times about how complainants’ survivors in the University don’t even receive the results of their case, especially when that case is regarding faculty,” said Wilgosh. 

“And the University is more concerned with their reputation, especially when it comes to faculty than actually giving justice to students,” she added. 

Margot Berner, a past student representative in the standing committee, read the statement at last week’s press conference, describing Concordia’s policy processes as ‘hostile to students.’ 

Berner also explained that the required non-disclosure agreements to participate in the committee prove a lack of transparency towards student organizations. 

“Non-disclosure agreements work directly against our mandates of transparency, accountability, and accessibility to information,” read the statement. 

Another reason that was provided for the collective withdrawal was the lack of student representation. Only four of the 15 committee members are students, representing only slightly less than a third of the active student body. Berner also highlighted that the final authority on the sexual violence policy remains at the discretion of the Board of Governors. 

“With most decisions taken behind closed doors or through coercive consensus, the student representative positions in actuality remain simply observational rather than representative,” Berner added. 

During his speech, Nelson Graves, a TRAC delegate for the philosophy department, claimed the department has a history of sexual violence. 

Graves recalls an instance wherein two teaching assistants (TAs) were recently assigned to one individual who has allegedly perpetuated sexual violence amongst his female TAs. 

Additionally, Graves spoke about another situation in which an international student felt humiliated by the lack of awareness from the University about the sexual misconduct allegations.

“We’re working with TRAC Union to better expand our campaign, and we are interested to see how the University responds to this larger campaign,” concluded Graves.

Payton Mitchell, communications coordinator for the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), was also present at the press conference. 

“Concordia’s sloppy process and refusal to approach problems with a student-centred and solution-oriented mindset have hindered accessibility to fully support our own membership,” said Mitchell. 

The CSU, GRA, TRAC and ASFA have no plans to return to the standing committee in the foreseeable future unless major changes regarding transparency are implemented. 

The three organizations will work closely together to raise awareness and support students who are mistreated. 

“We actually believe that we would do a better job of leading, beginning the discussions about what the sexual violence response should be in the University because we don’t have these institutional restraints that the University faces,” said Wilgosh.


Concordia will not comply with the Quebec Human Rights Commission’s recommendations regarding sexual assault complaints, sources say

A case against the university will escalate to the Human Rights Tribunal

Concordia University has chosen not to comply with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s recommendation to change how it handles sexual assault complaints. The case will escalate to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, sources told The Concordian.

In June, the Human Rights Commission issued a decision that said Concordia’s procedure for dealing with sexual assault and violence complaints was overly rigid and formal, leading to a contradictory and adversarial method of processing complaints that was “likely to have harmful effects.”

The case was brought forward by a former disabled Concordia student named Cathy.* The commission ruled that she was a victim of discrimination based on her gender and disability and that her right to equality was violated through Concordia’s handling of her sexual assault complaint.

“The way that Concordia has responded doesn’t surprise me and feels very in line with the sort of obstructions that I faced going through the entire process,” said Cathy.

After the first assault happened outside of the university campus, Cathy said she called the police, reported the assault, and obtained a restraining order against her aggressor, a Concordia student, who was arrested following the incident. She also said she approached Concordia’s campus security about the incident to warn them about her aggressor.

When Cathy was assaulted by the aggressor a second time, this time on campus, she said that she no longer feels safe at the university because the aggressor did not respect the restraining order. Following the incident, she called the police once more, and he was arrested again. 

Once again Cathy went to campus security, who told her she would have to file a formal complaint to the Office of Student Tribunals for the university to enact any sort of punishment for the aggressor.


Cathy described feeling as though the university tried to delay the process of her complaint against her aggressor. After Cathy filed the complaint in March of 2015, it took more than a year for the student tribunal to hear her case, in May of 2016.

Cathy expressed that she did not want to be in the same room as her aggressor during the tribunal hearing. She had faced him once before in court, where he pleaded guilty to the assault charges.

Cathy was told that her restraining order against her aggressor would be enforced in the tribunal, and that she could submit her testimony by video. However, none of these accommodations were provided.

Instead, in order to have her case heard at the tribunal, Cathy said she was told to “make an exception” in her restraining order against her aggressor, so they could simultaneously testify in-person. She would have to sit in the same room as him and testify in his presence.

“It was very shocking and upsetting,” said Cathy. “I had … to be two people away from my attacker.”

Cathy was also told she could not have an immediate family member there at the tribunal for support or to speak as a character witness on her behalf. Her aggressor, however, was able to invite his parents as his character witness.

“It felt so demeaning,” said Cathy.

According to Concordia’s policy regarding sexual violence, which was updated in June of 2020, “accommodations that may be considered include: providing seperate rooms prior to meetings; alternatives to face-to face meetings through other means of participation such as telephone, video, Skype; use of an intermediary; pre-recorded answers and statements; prepared written responses; as well as the opportunity to have support and representation at any hearing or confidential meeting with the investigator.”


The outcome of the tribunal came in June 2016, and the aggressor was penalized for “threatening and violent conduct.” His punishment was 30 hours of community service to be completed at the end of the Winter 2017 term.

The tribunal also dismissed Cathy’s allegation that the incident constituted sexual harassment, but did not give her any explanation as to why it came to that decision, according to Cathy.

In April 2017, Cathy asked the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) to file a complaint on her behalf with the Human Rights Commission against Concordia University based on how her sexual assault allegation was handled. The Human Rights Commission took three years to make a decision on her case, arriving at said decision in June of 2020.

The commission outlined its recommendations to Concordia University in three parts. The first was that Concordia should award Cathy $15,000 in damages ($10,000 in moral damages and $5,000 in punitive damages for violation of her civil rights).

Secondly, the commission called on the university to remove all adversarial elements in how the university handles sexual assault and violence complaints.

Thirdly, the commission asked that members of Concordia’s Office of Student Tribunals receive effective training to further curb all adversarial approaches in dealing with complaints of sexual assault.


Fo Niemi, Executive Director of the CRARR, helped Cathy bring her case to the Human Rights Commission. Niemi told The Concordian that Concordia University has decided not to comply with the Human Rights Commission’s recommendations.

When questioned about this decision, Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci told The Concordian that the university “does not comment on matters that are pending before the courts or administrative tribunals.”

According to Niemi, Concordia University had months to comply with the decision. Niemi said the university’s reasons for non-compliance will only be known when the case goes to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

Niemi said that Cathy’s case escalating to the Human Rights Tribunal would be “precedent setting.”

“Not only for Concordia but for all universities here in Quebec, in dealing with campus sexual violence, especially universities that have a code of conduct that supposedly bans discrimination, harassment, and violence,” said Niemi.


Cathy said she is going forward with the case so that, “no one has to go through this again. The system has to change.”

Niemi said the Student Tribunal has problems that are “structural and systemic,” highlighting how Cathy was forced to testify in person, close to her aggressor, without a security guard in the room.

Concordia’s Office of Student Tribunals is composed of student volunteers and a group of lawyers who serve as chairs during the hearings. Members are trained to rule on complaints brought forward by students, with the most aggressive punishment being expulsion.

Niemi noted the unequal class representation and inadequate experience among the Student Tribunal lawyers who chair the hearings.

“They are all corporate lawyers with backgrounds in business and tax law — that is basically a reflection of a certain class bias,” said Niemi. The lack of experience in  diverse legal backgrounds “should raise concerns about the fairness of the entire Student Tribunal process.”

“Why can’t we get lawyers with labour, human rights, or independent criminal defense experiences?” Niemi continued.

Niemi pointed out that the tribunal consists of a majority white panel. “The gross lack of diversity among the appointees, that in itself is a betrayal in [the university’s] commitment to diversity.”

Walter Chi-yan Tom, manager at the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Legal Information Clinic, said that the university’s decision not to comply with the commission’s recommendations are “not surprising and [are] systemic.”

“The university’s usual behaviour pattern when a human rights complaint is filed against Concordia is that the educational institution just tries to drag on the case as long as possible, hoping that the student will eventually tire-out, graduate, or disappear, and therefore the problem will resolve itself,” said Tom, “but unfortunately not for the victim of sexual assault or violence.”

Tom also brought up the insufficient human rights training and lack of diversity among the tribunal chairs.

“Where is their background in human rights? Where is their professional experience and training in dealing with survivors of trauma, especially victims of sexual violence? How can the university’s selection of only white corporate lawyers as chairs possibly be representative of Concordia’s diversity?” asked Tom.

Jennifer Drummond, manager of Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC), informed the The Concordian that the total amount of training on sexual assault cases provided to both the chairs and volunteer students of the tribunal is one hour of a PowerPoint presentation. 

“How is this system survivor-centric? Trauma-informed?” said Tom.

Cathy said she hopes her experience sheds light on how universities treat victims of sexual violence and how “flawed this whole procedure and the student tribunal was.”


Concordia spokesperson Maestracci told The Concordian that the university has continuously updated their “original sexual violence policy in 2018 and 2020 (June) with inputs from members of the entire university, including students.”

*to protect the subject’s identity, we are using her preferred pseudonym.

Graphic by Taylor Reddam.


How the legal system has failed victims of sexual assault once again.

Warning: this piece deals with mentions of rape, sexual assault and abuse. 

It all began on Oct. 5, 2017, with an article in the New York Times which contained accusations agaisnt Harvey Weinstein, a revered movie producer, of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Ashley Judd and Emily Nestor. They were the first women to publicly come forward and share their experiences with Weinstein.

Although the #Metoo movement has existed since 2006, and was started by Tarana Burke, following her own personal experience with sexual abuse, the movement became widely popular in 2017. The use of the hashtag by Alyssa Milano on October 15 of that year is what revived it.

Burke’s goal was to “build a community of advocates, driven by survivors, who will be at the forefront of creating solutions to interrupt sexual violence in their communities.” The #MeToo movement is an amazing medium that has encouraged women to come forward with their stories. It helped them to no longer be afraid of sharing what they’ve been through.

The fact that Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison instead of walking away free is a great victory, but why did it take over three years for him to be convicted? the legal system definitely has to become more tailored to these cases, as it can be traumatic having to tell time after time what these survivors went through, especially when they aren’t believed. It’s quite upsetting and unjust that these hearings take forever.

According to an article by CNBC, the maximum sentence for rape in New York is 29 years. This is yet another instance where the legal system continues to reduce the consequences of dire actions, especially when powerful people hire the best lawyers in the field. In order to keep this from happening again, the justice system has to change and become easier for victims to navigate. The stigma and discreditation of victims are some of the numerous reasons  why so many survivors are ashamed to come forward.

According to Beverly Engel, a psychologist at Psychology Today, three out four victims of sexual harassment decide against telling anyone in authority about the abuse. Instead, they choose to avoid the abuser, downplay the gravity of the situation or attempt to ignore what is going on. Feelings of shame, denial—especially when the victim blames themselves for  the abuse––and fear of consequences fuel the desire to stay silent. Combined with the fact that the legal system can be overwhelming to navigate without a lawyer, since some can’t possibly afford one, the system unconsciously grants privilege to the accused.

It’s honestly disheartening that we continue to live in a world where class and fame determine the chance of someone being taken seriously in a court of law.

If the legal system were to offer more options for victims to have proper representation, quicker court hearings and not have their stories questioned every second, we could make sure that more rapists and abusers end up behind bars.

As a society, people in positions of authority such as the police force and important players in the judicial system need to change their ways of viewing these survivors. Victim-blaming isn’t going to help anyone. Times have changed and the legal system needs to go through an enormous reformation for the better. 



Photo collage by Laurence B.D


The hidden dangers of online dating

Some use them for fun, while others may be searching for their true love. But there is one thing that is certain about dating apps; they need more regulation.

A recent investigation discovered that most free dating apps don’t conduct background checks on sex offenders. In fact, Match Group, the largest dating app corporation in the United States, has admitted that they do not screen free dating apps for users with sexual-related charges. The company owns some of the most popular dating apps to date such as Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish, and OkCupid.

A simple background check could have saved the lives of multiple men and women who ended up raped or murdered. A study conducted by Columbia Journalism Investigations has found that this lack of uniform policy to conduct background checks had left users vulnerable to an array of sexual assaults.

However, what remains shocking is that Match Group had issued statements pertaining to the protection of its users by ensuring extensive screenings of potential predators, but it has done the opposite, according to CBS News. For years, it had made false promises to users in which they agreed to examine sex-offender registries following the rapes of various women. Both women had matched with men whom they later realized had been convicted of sexual-related crimes on multiple occasions.

One woman matched with a man named Mark Papamechail on the Plenty of Fish dating app back in 2016. His profile indicated that he was divorced, just like her, and looking for someone to marry. The two chatted for months and even went on several dates together until he raped her. She became the second woman to file a police report against Papamechail following a sex-related crime.

According to the same analysis, in 10 per cent of the incidents, dating platforms had matched their users with a convicted criminal at least once before. These statistics should raise an immediate red flag considering the number of people using dating apps daily. The Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) released a study suggesting that this problem will continue, given the growing popularity of online dating apps throughout the years. In 2008, the percentage of adults who used dating apps went from three per cent in 2008, two 12 per cent in 2015. Furthermore, the BBC announced in an article released this year that the number of recorded sexual assaults had almost doubled in the last four years. In England, recorded offenses intensified from 156 in 2015, to 286 in 2018.

Despite the dangers surrounding these dating apps, there are precautions that can be taken for women to feel safer before going on a date with someone they met online. First and foremost, you should always let a friend or family member know about the date ahead of time. You can also let that person track your location using through the Find My Friends app or via Facebook Messenger. I also find that it’s usually best to meet your date in a public place in the event that if something bad happens, there’s always a chance that someone nearby will see something. Never forget, the internet is your friend! So in that case, don’t be afraid to do some digging on the person you’re meeting beforehand. Last tip, if your date takes place in a bar, always make sure to keep an eye on your drink if you feel uneasy because at the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry!


Graphic by Victoria Blair

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


Professor acquitted after complaints of alleged sexual harassment

Concordia says it is in accordance with privacy laws

A Creative Writing professor in Concordia’s English department was cleared in September 2018 of the sexual harassment allegations filed by two former students, according to a recent report by CBC. The two former students, who filed the complaints in January 2018, reportedly learned of this exoneration through CBC two weeks ago.

Concordia University has still not confirmed if the professor was exonerated. University Spokesperson Fiona Downey said “we cannot divulge any information surrounding potential or actual investigations, including the results of any investigations or any other employment matters.”

The sexual assault allegations date back to events that happened at the university in the 1990s. The two former students’ complaints were filed around the same time that Mike Spry, a graduate from Concordia’s Creative Writing program, wrote a lengthy essay denouncing the toxic and misogynistic environment of the program.

Francis Bouchard, a spokesperson for the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Jean-François Roberge, told CBC it is “natural” to report results of an investigation to the person who filed the complaint. However, Downey said that Concordia contacted Quebec government officials and have been assured that they are complying with privacy and confidentiality legislation.

“We do understand this is particularly frustrating for the complainants who want to know the exact results, but this is the reality we face,” said Downey.

Downey said the university followed the guidelines established by the education department, which only requires them to inform complainants when an investigation has been completed. “I can tell you that you that we inform the complainants about the completion of an investigation,” said Downey. However, Concordia would not confirm if they did or did not inform the complainants in this case.

One of the complainants, Ibi Kaslik, a Toronto author, told CBC she tried getting updates on her complaints. Concordia would only tell her that the third-party investigator took the information presented to them and then the university reacted. Kaslik said she wanted to know about the outcome of the investigation, but kept hitting a wall.

Per the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal Information, no confidential information–including personal information–can be shared by a post-secondary institution to another person, including the person who filed the complaint. On the other hand, the institution can contact the plaintiff to see how they would like to move forward.

Downey said these practices are also reiterated in the university’s updated sexual violence policy. The university will release a climate review of the English department sometime in the winter semester. It is mandated to collect information from students, staff, faculty, and alumni about the culture and climate of the department through third-party experts.

Two English professors are still under a third-party investigation for unrelated sexual misconduct allegations as well, which were also filed at the same time last year.

In a statement to The Concordian, Downey said the Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence has been discussing with the university what could be implemented to provide further support for complainants. Downey added that the committee is also in the process of creating a step-by-step guide for complainants.

The university is currently in the process of implementing Bill 151, an Act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions. The university has until Sept. 1, 2019 to fully implement the bill’s requirements. Additionally, the committee is planning on meeting with other post-secondary institutions in May, as it did in November 2018, to discuss the implementation of Bill 151.

Meanwhile, the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence continues its community conversations. Undergraduate students are invited to the next community conversations, which will be on March 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grey Nuns Building, and on May 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in PC 2.115.

Graphic by Loreanna Lastoria.

With Files from Candice Pye, Matthew Lapierre and Étienne Lajoie.

Photo by Mia Anhoury and Graphic by Loreanna Lastoria.


Editorial: Vicious victim-blaming rhetoric needs to end

This past year, we’ve heard a lot of conversations about racism, sexism, equality and sexual assault. It’s safe to say that something has changed.

Perhaps it’s the fact that some voices are now louder than others, and these ‘uncomfortable’ conversations are happening more often. Regardless of the reason, when we reflect on this past year from an optimistic perspective, we can see many instances of positive change.

But while movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp successfully dominate the news cycle, we still have a lot of work to do within our local communities. This is particularly apparent in the recent actions of our city’s police. According to Le Devoir, Montreal police faced backlash for launching a sexual assault prevention campaign that implied women make themselves more vulnerable to sexual assault when they drink too much.

The campaign was called “Je sors avec ma gang, je repars avec ma gang,” and was initially launched in 2012. Montreal police recently decided to reactivate the campaign by distributing some leftover flyers in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. However, they received a lot of backlash from social media users due to the victim-blaming nature of the campaign, and decided to retract it.

This isn’t the first time Montreal police have been involved in victim-blaming. In 2016, local police told girls at Villa Maria High School that they were “asking for harassment” because of their short skirts, reported CBC News.

We at The Concordian are appalled by the lack of social awareness in the Montreal police’s decision to re-launch this campaign. In a social climate bursting with conversations about sexual assault and victim-blaming, it’s inexcusable to promote the idea that victims are responsible for the horrible actions of perpetrators. While we’re glad they retracted the campaign and realized their mistake, the fact that they re-launched it in the first place shows we have a long way to go.

This isn’t an ongoing issue exclusive to Canada either. On Nov. 14, protests took place in Ireland against the use of a victim’s underwear as evidence in a rape trial. A 17-year-old girl accused a 27-year-old man of rape, and the man was found not guilty of the crime, according to Global News. The defendant’s lawyer argued that the jury should consider that the girl was wearing lacy underwear at the time. “You have to look at the way she was dressed,” the lawyer said. “She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” This sparked protests all over Ireland, and people posted pictures of their underwear on social media with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.

Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault. It is the fault of the perpetrator—the one who chooses to violate and hurt an innocent person. We need to end the victim-blaming narrative, and we must continue to call out those who perpetuate it. Not only does this narrative place the blame on people who need to be listened to and believed, it also promotes lies. If sexual assault was related to how much someone drinks, then sober people wouldn’t get sexually assaulted—yet, they do. If sexual assault was related to how revealing an outfit is, then people wouldn’t get assaulted in the winter—yet, they do. If going to a club or bar makes people vulnerable to sexual assault, people wouldn’t get assaulted in their own homes—yet, they do.

We at The Concordian hope this upcoming year continues to see a huge shift in the narrative surrounding sexual assault. We hope survivors feel they are listened to, validated and respected, rather than blamed and condemned. The only people we must condemn are those who commit these acts—and those who continue to push this vicious, victim-blaming rhetoric.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

Student Life

Dancing our way to safety with PLURI

Nightclubs are beginning to address the sexual harassment marginalized groups experience

Suppose you want to have a fun night out with a group of friends, but you’re not a cisgender, heterosexual male. Of course, bartenders are usually apt to thwarting suspicious behaviour, and venues often have bouncers or security for when dodgy situations escalate. Nonetheless, for marginalized groups—namely the LGBTQ+ community, women of colour (WoC) and cisgender women—a night out typically entails a mixture of catcalling, verbal harassment, non-consensual physical interactions, and, in too many cases, sexual assault.

In 2017, just under 30,000 sexual assault cases in Canada were reported to the police, according to a StatsCan report released in July. Of those cases, almost 4,000 were deemed unfounded, meaning “police determined that no crime had taken place,” reads the same report. The Conseil des Montréalaises released an opinion paper titled “Montreal, a Festive City for all Women: Security of Trans Women and Girls at Outdoor Events in Montreal.” It cites studies indicating that, in 2011, 47 per cent of women felt twice as nervous as men walking through their neighbourhoods at night, and 45 per cent of women avoid certain areas at night. These, and many other reports, cannot even begin to quantify the degree of sexualized violence marginalized communities experience and the number of unreported sexual assault cases.

Christopher Roberts, a Concordia student who enjoys Montreal’s nightlife, said they spent a lot of time at Bar Datcha, a popular cocktail nightclub on Avenue Laurier W., one block west of St-Laurent Blvd., one of Montreal’s popular nightlife strips. Datcha is a nightclub that recently partnered with PLURI, a non-profit organization aiming to reduce harassment on dance floors. Through integrated safety monitors visible by the yellow ‘Party Support’ label on their backs, or staff shirts from respective venues, PLURI volunteers are trying to make dance floors more enjoyable for everyone by intervening in harassment situations before they escalate.

PLURI, which stands for Peace Love Unity Respect Initiative, was co-founded by Éliane Thivierge and Celeste Pimm, alongside a small team of other volunteers, in August 2016. The non-profit offers a range of workshops for event organizers, bar staff, and aspiring volunteers that provide “training on how to recognize harassment, how certain systemic oppressions interact with party spaces and bystander intervention,” according to an interview with PLURI.

Party Support volunteers have been present at music festivals such as MUTEK, POP Montreal, Red Bull Music Festival, and Slut Island. PLURI explained that Party Support volunteers are the “middle [ground] between the event patron and security… They are points of contact that are more accessible and less intimidating than security.”

Bar Datcha, a popular cocktail nightclub on Avenue Laurier W., one block west of St-Laurent Blvd., one of Montreal’s popular nightlife strips. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Patrick Gregoire has been the manager of Datcha for the past four years. He said the venue has been working with PLURI’s dance floor safety monitors for over six months, despite only announcing their partnership just over a month ago. Gregoire explained that, at first, the Party Support volunteers were inconspicuous, and didn’t wear any labels that indicated their position. “But we felt that their work is best when people see someone on the dance floor with authority that isn’t security,” said Gregoire.

Roberts explained two instances, both occurring the same night at Datcha, which involved their friends experiencing sexual harassment to the point where bar staff and security intervened. “The wrong people found [their] way to [some] queer people […] and one was grabbing people, including my friend,” said Roberts. “I found a bartender to let them know the situation and, immediately, a bouncer kicked the guy out.” Roberts said the second incident involved a cis male harassing two of their queer friends and, when the situation escalated, Roberts “made eye contact with a bouncer who immediately dissolved the situation.”

Carla, a bartender at Datcha, said she’s very happy about the bar’s collaboration with PLURI. “It’s a plus having that extra team around,” she said. “And the fact that they’re all women—I love.”

Chris, another bartender at Datcha, said he’s been fortunate enough to “work [at] places where [they’ve] always had someone to deal with those issues.” Carla added that the Party Support volunteers try to educate people and deconstruct instances of harassment. “At the end of the night, the girls all sit down with security and the bouncers and go over what happened that night,” said Carla. “It’s really cool.”

Gregoire, as well as PLURI, emphasized the benefit of having initiatives like Party Support. “Before, these things wouldn’t get flagged until it was a problem,” said Gregoire. “[Volunteers] often end up checking in with people who are being harassed before they decide to reach out for help,” explained PLURI. The non-profit organization added that most patrons facing harassment will accept the support offered instead of tolerating these behaviours or removing themselves from the space.

Concordia journalism student and techno music enthusiast Erika Morris said that an initiative like PLURI “makes [her] feel better about these places recognizing an issue and trying to do something about it.” Security has been helpful at times by keeping their eyes on men who harass her, explained Morris. “Sure, it made me feel a bit safer that night, but the next time I went out, I had just as many chances of being harassed again,” she said. Marginalized communities—particularly queer folk—who experience harassment in public spaces, thus creating the need for these programs, “just reflects a higher societal problem,” added Morris.

“I think it’s cool that these people who are volunteers stay sober to try and help people,” said Morris. Roberts agreed that they feel PLURI and the Party Support initiative is an important step towards helping marginalized communities feel safe when they go out at night. “But in the end,” said Roberts, “there’s an overwash of sorrow that reminds our communities that we are being pushed into corners of spaces […]. [We] need more help than ever just to feel comfortable being with each other and ourselves for a night.”

Feature image by Alex Hutchins.


“Boys will be boys” encourages predatory behaviour

The recent allegations against Brett Kavanaugh highlight a deeper issue

On Sept. 27, Christine Blasey Ford testified against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about an alleged sexual assault. After Ford went public, two other women came forward with similar allegations. As a result of the accusations, Ford’s world has been turned upside down. It wasn’t long before Ford, a college professor living in California with her husband and two sons, started to receive death threats.

Victims of sexual violence face an immense amount of pressure when coming forward. The way they’re treated and oftentimes ridiculed is a clear indication that people don’t grasp how serious sexual violence truly is. The alleged assault took place 30 years ago, back when Kavanaugh and Ford were teenagers. But this story is still relevant today. Much of the blame is being placed on the fact that they were young and intoxicated, raising the notion that “boys will be boys,” which places teenage girls in a very despairing position. Present in this problematic societal norm is the concept that men can do what they want and women should succumb.

This notion is even rooted in every girl’s education; if a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you. The idea that masculine violence is natural, and therefore should be excused, is a problematic idea that continues to exist even in adulthood. Boys become men, and women, whatever their age or social status, are still expected to accept and endure masculine violence as a sign of affection, as something they should be grateful for. Kavanaugh’s defenders have tried to downplay the severity of the accusations, implying that what happened in high school somehow matters less.

“Isn’t it strange how every woman knows someone who’s been sexually harassed but no man seem [sic] to know any harasser?” tweeted singer Zara Larsson last year. This question in itself is an explanation for how our society operates. Women experiencing sexual violence in their everyday lives has become the norm.

Many men are raised with the idea of legitimate ownership over women and their bodies. This idea becomes even more apparent when men are in positions of power. On the other hand, women are taught to believe that their sexuality is frowned upon. Half of the world’s population is continually shamed for what they wear, how they talk, and whatever else is deemed inappropriate by society.

There’s an obvious problem when addressing how systems of power operate in the professional world. The conversation concerning sexual violence begins with consent. When discussing sexual violence and sexual harassment, there’s a lack of clarity in what constitutes the two.

Don’t get me wrong––both types of acts are horrific and must be condemned. But I’ve noticed that depending on a person’s circumstances, sexual harassment is often undermined because it really has to do with how something makes you feel. What constitutes as sexual harassment can be different for different people, which makes it harder to recognize and condemn it––what one person might feel is harassment might not be felt that way by someone else.

Ultimately, predatory behaviour can be hard to recognize, but even when it’s in our face, we feel hesitant in calling it out because of normalized behaviours and boundaries. As members of our society, we are all responsible for how we call out predatory behaviour. Unfortunately, as shown by the allegations against Kavanaugh, we’re still living in a time where survivors of sexual violence are not immediately believed and are doubted. When something of this nature happens to a survivor of sexual violence, they are reminded that they are not in control, which is extremely upsetting.

Oddly, sexual consent only comes up in conversation when it has already been violated. People’s actions during their adolescent years may not define who they become as adults, but they can permanently change the lives of others. We must remember that.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Aziz Ansari, welcome to the conversation

The time has come to speak out, listen and change the discussion 

When I first read the allegations about Aziz Ansari, I was extremely disappointed. He was supposed to a good guy. A feminist. A social activist. An underdog. Yet, there he was being aggressive, inappropriate and supposedly unaware of his actions.

The allegations were written in an article titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life,” published on the website Babe on Jan. 14. After seeing Ansari with a “Time’s Up” pin at the Golden Globes, a writer using the pseudonym “Grace” was set off. She recounted a date with Ansari after meeting him at the Emmys in 2017. She wrote about how abruptly Ansari wanted to have intercourse, and how he continuously put her hands on his genitals even after she removed them.

In her story, Grace claimed Ansari ignored her “verbal and non-verbal cues” indicating how uncomfortable she was during their time together at his home. Grace wrote that she still felt pressure to perform oral sex and allowed the unbearable experience to continue.

It would be naive to retrospectively say she should have just said no and left, because the pressures Grace faced are far more hidden, insidious and complex than they appear on the surface. This situation has brought up a discussion about consent, a long overdue discussion that has exploded in our society.

To me, what Grace described is a situation that lacked consent and empathy. However, this Ansari incident is so much bigger than the technicalities of sex being consensual or not. I believe arguing about consent in this situation should not be the focus, as it is clear Grace was feeling extremely uncomfortable, based on her recollection of the experience. We should be focusing on how to communicate during sexual encounters and how to encourage women to advocate for themselves in these situations.

Through my observations, I’ve noticed there was a great deal of hesitation to label this incident as sexual assault, by both men and women. To many, this situation may be all too familiar. This may be too close to home for women as it forces them to re-label personal experiences they thought of as just bad sex. Similarly, men may hesitate to reconcile their approach and actions—they might not understand that their actions have made women uncomfortable. Others have pushed back because of a perceived dilution of what assault really looks like. I’ve realized the movements #MeToo and Time’s Up may be more complicated than I originally anticipated.

In my opinion, issues with consent and sexual assault begin because of the hypersexualization of women in society. From a young age, men and women are taught to treat the female body like a sexual object. Men are taught about the “chase” and winning girls over with effort and perseverance. In media, women are often shown as unsure in their sexual encounters, and it’s supposedly the men’s job to change their minds. Porn, social media, advertisement, music videos and countless other media perpetuate this narrative.

Although sexual assault is a multi-layered, systematic issue, I think the media presence and the culture surrounding sex has acted as a catalyst for non-consensual relationships. We need to start thinking critically about how we can improve communication between men and women during sex. If we do not also examine the male perspective of the Ansari issue, and of sexual assault in general, we won’t be able to affect complete change.

For the first time in history, we are listening to and believing women about sexual assault allegations. It’s revolutionary, and it needs to continue. But I strongly believe we must include men in this conversation too. Not just by calling them out, but by making them understand their actions. Without trying to understand the complexities on both sides, we risk staying stagnant during this discussion and progress.

What Ansari did was bad. What others did was worse, and all of this is much too common, even among the “good guys” in our society. This is an opportunity unlike any we’ve had before. Not only are we calling men out, we are calling them in. Welcome to the conversation.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

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