ITFA breaks their silence on sexual violence at Concordia

How the anti-sexual violence group is using their voices to change a broken system.

The Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA), an organization composed of student members of Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC), Concordia Student Union (CSU), and Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), attended the second annual Student Feminist convention on Friday Aug. 25 in Concordia’s Hall building, continuing to use their voices as a weapon of hope to prevent sexual violence on Concordia grounds. 

The convention encompasses promoting a healthy academic and working environment for Concordia students through lectures and engaging discussions between union members. 

In Feb. 2023, the Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV) prevented ITFA from joining discussions on sexual violence prevention at the university, leading ITFA to boycott their silencing. Since the boycott, Concordia University Support Staff Union (CUSSU), and the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) have joined ITFA in their fight. 

Becca Wilgosh is a PhD geography student, one of the co-founders of the Feminist Workplace Committee (FWC) and founder of ITFA. She refuses to stay quiet in a corner where she is not able to properly stand up for her beliefs. 

“We cannot rightfully participate in this committee where we’re not heard, where we’re just legitimizing what they’re doing with our presence and we have no actual leverage to change things there,” said Wilgosh. 

Since then, the SMSV refused to hear ITFA’s important decisions and discussions of anti-sexual violence prevention. 

On March 8, FWC protested the university’s lack of transparency towards sexual violence on campus and a work ban againgst a philosophy professor accused of harassing TA’s. Our Turn national plan, a student led movement to end sexual violence on campuses, rated Concordia a D- for their lack of care when handling such cases. Wilgosh does not want a case or issue to go unnoticed, regardless of how much time has gone by since the event happened. 

“We revived an old struggle basically and we decided that we needed to formalize this a little bit in order to keep it moving and to have institutional memory. We did that by creating ITFA,” said Wilgosh. 

The union members are discussing the ways to build feminist workplaces at Concordia. Photo by Marieke Glorieux-Stryckman / The Concordian

Hannah Jamet-Lange is a second-year Masters student in media studies, FWC and ITFA member and former SMSV member. SMSV members are required to sign an NDA and according to Jamet-Lange, the NDA’s serve to protect the university’s reputation rather than the victims’ identities who come forward. Jamet-Lange witnessed the SMSV unfortunately silencing victims.

“The administration who sits on this committee has been actively silencing students that are sitting on the committee by not letting them speak in zoom meetings,” they said.

They also related their own time as a member of SMSV: “I remember that myself being on the committee and students would really talk about their own experiences and the harm that they’ve experienced at the university, and administrators would just be rolling their eyes. The whole environment would be very hostile to students.” 

Wilgosh and Jamet-Lange are choosing their voices, morals, and their fight over anything else. They are hoping ITFA can help them break the silence.

“We’re demanding and building an alternative at the same time; that’s the opposite of neglect,” said Wilgosh. 

ITFA is continuing on their second year and are hoping their fight stays strong for the future of the university.


Sexual Violence at Concordia: An Ongoing Fight for Justice

Concordia in Dire Need of Sexual Violence Policy Reform, Students Say

Listen to the Concordian’s news editors Marieke Glorieux-Stryckman and the Link’s news editor Zachary Fortier speak on the details behind this story.

CORRECTION: This article was edited to remove an erroneous quote and to add specifications. Details regarding the corrections are found below.

At the start of the Winter 2022 semester, Concordia student Katherine Leblanc’s theology class was moved online due to COVID-19 precautions. After texting her class group chat about the challenges of the course, Leblanc began receiving hateful messages from multiple male classmates. Their insults took a rapid turn. 

In February 2022, Leblanc received a series of pornographic images and threats of bodily harm, including rape. 

She followed Concordia’s sexual violence policy, which also applies to online harassment. As she attempted to seek justice for the harassment she endured, she said the university made it as difficult as possible for her needs to be met.

After filing a complaint to the Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR), Leblanc claimed she was left in the dark for weeks and routinely ignored by Concordia. After hiring a lawyer to get the university to respond, she claimed she finally received a reply with a hearing date the following day. “I shouldn’t have to get a lawyer to move my case to the tribunal,” Leblanc said.

“I’d been cooperating for weeks and they would not send my case to the tribunal. They just wouldn’t answer. Instead of telling me the process, they moved me from person to person,” she continued.

“I was cooperating with Concordia but they would not listen.”

From the ORR to the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC), Leblanc never felt heard or properly taken care of by the institutional bodies meant to handle sexual violence on campus.

The history of sexual violence on Quebec campuses goes back decades. Years of advocacy from university and CEGEP students led to Quebec passing Bill 151 in 2017, an Act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions. 

In compliance with the new law, Concordia created the Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV) in 2018. Despite the mandatory inclusion of four student representatives on the committee, student members of the SMSV say they have routinely felt ignored and outnumbered by the administration.

In October 2022, the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), and the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union began a boycott of the SMSV. They demanded student-led solutions, transparency, and gender equity. 

In response to the boycott, Concordia appointed four students to the SMSV, potentially violating the Accreditation Act by not having representatives from student unions. The identities of these students have not been revealed.

Limited Resources, Limited Impact

After Leblanc was sexually harassed, she consulted SARC for assistance. She was given information about mental health and other services available to her, but didn’t find much use from them.

Faced with physically returning to her classroom once in-person learning resumed, Leblanc was frustrated with Concordia’s Sexual Assault Response Team, made to help survivors navigate campus. “Just trying to get security to accompany me to class was a nightmare,” she said.

SARC was created in 2013 largely due to student-led efforts from the Centre for Gender Advocacy and in collaboration with Health Services, the Dean of Students Office and other units on campus. It is the primary point of contact for members of the university experiencing any form of sexual violence.

For Jennifer Drummond, SARC’s manager, the centre has two missions: support and prevention. “The centre provides counseling, academic and health accommodations, and other resources,” she said.

Currently, SARC employs two counselors, a facilitator, and a project coordinator, according to Drummond. Volunteers fill the other posts.

One of SARC’s responsibilities is the handling of sexual assault disclosures. 

In Concordia’s annual reports, which are required by Bill 151, the university categorizes instances of sexual assault reported by students between disclosures and complaints.

The report defines disclosures as signaling a situation without going as far as filing an administrative complaint. Disclosures are resolved with accommodation measures for the survivor. 

In Concordia’s 2021-2022 report, 111 disclosures were filed.

Many students have criticized the way SARC operates. In a 2018 report, 70 per cent of people who reported sexual assault at Concordia were dissatisfied with the outcome of their cases. 

Olivia, a member of the CSU’s campaigns department who has been given a pseudonym to protect her identity, argued that institutional changes are needed.

“Only 10 per cent of assaults on Quebec campuses ever get reported,” she said. “And from that 10 per cent, how many actually get any follow-through? Accountability is incredibly hard to achieve at Concordia,” she said.

said Olivia.

“The issue with SARC is that it’s not staffed enough to deal with the entire Concordia population,” comprised of over 50,000 people, Olivia added. “Rates of sexual violence are incredibly high—over one in three people will be assaulted on campus in Quebec. We need SARC to be well-staffed, which includes raising budgets.”

Drummond said she felt that SARC was well-equipped by the administration, but that more can always be done. “I think that with a community of this size, we can always have more counselors and resources,” she said.

If Concordia wants to fix its rape culture, Olivia believes the university must invest in better prevention. She criticized Concordia’s online sexual violence trainings, which were made mandatory by Bill 151. 

She said all mandatory trainings should be annual, in-person and involving a facilitator. While athletes and student leaders do have mandatory trainings that fit these criteria, Olivia believes this should be extended to the whole student body. “If Concordia wants to call itself a next-generation university or a feminist space, it needs to care about survivors more than its bottom line.”

Processing Violence

Once survivors consult with SARC, they are encouraged to file a complaint if they are comfortable, Drummond explained. According to Concordia’s policy, complaints are formal measures aimed at taking action against alleged perpetrators. 

The report makes a distinction between informal complaints, which “are often resolved to the satisfaction of both parties,” and formal complaints, which “can lead to disciplinary measures.” 

Informal complaints can result in an apology letter, community service, or a no-contact agreement, Drummond said. It is a non-disciplinary option, but can escalate to a formal complaint.

Formal complaints involving students will be sent to the Office of Student Tribunals, where a hearing will take place. If a survivor’s case involves a member of the administration or faculty, an investigation is planned. Disciplinary action may be taken, and final results are in the hands of panelists trained in part by SARC, Drummond explained.

Formal complaints can lead to a note on file, suspension, restricted access to the campus, expulsion or firing. According to the latest annual report, 18 complaints were reported in 2021-2022. 

Sexual violence complaints are handled by the Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR), the body charged with resolving all incidents where the Code of Rights and Responsibilities has been allegedly violated.

When Leblanc attempted to file a complaint with the ORR, she was met with seemingly endless problems.

“The whole time I dealt with the ORR, nothing was explained to me. It felt like I wasn’t worth their breath.”

Because sexual violence had been involved in her case, Leblanc wanted to take it to a student tribunal. She claimed her requests were ignored by ORR members.

Leblanc spent her summer in Zoom meetings with the ORR, forced to retell her story multiple times to many different people. She recalled Drummond sitting in during one of the meetings and offering her words of support, but nothing substantive came out of their interaction.

“We are not a reporting office. We just receive disclosures, provide support and provide education,” said Drummond, explaining that reporting is handled by the ORR.

Bill 151 stipulates that universities must have separate policies pertaining to sexual violence that distinguish them from other policies. While Concordia meets these criteria, students have criticized the university for not having a body independent of the ORR to handle cases of sexual violence.

Drummond affirmed that SARC works very closely with the ORR on cases of sexual violence, helping guide members as they deal with complaints. Additionally, students who sit on student tribunals are given trainings by SARC for when they have to deal with sexual violence cases.

The Policy Problem

Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV) was created in 2018, following the implementation of Bill 151. 

According to Concordia Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci, the SMSV “explores ways to strengthen prevention and response and so it reviews the policies, looks at responses, training and so on.” The SMSV does not rule over issues of sexual violence at Concordia, but rather looks into the policies and procedures used in such cases.

In 2018, Concordia student Elena, who has been given a pseudonym to protect her identity, sat as her union’s representative on the SMSV. At the time, the committee forced members to sign non-disclosure agreements with the university. Elena refused to sign the NDA and Concordia eventually stopped asking for it, despite her constant presence at the committee.

Elena recalled a board room filled with administration officials, lawyers and faculty representatives. Each meeting would begin with a lengthy speech from one of Concordia’s lawyers.

“Sometimes, they would send us massive documents the night before so that we didn’t have time to read through them in time,” Elena said. “We students would stay up all night making notes and organizing, and we’d enter meetings with solutions.”

After poring over reports, the students wanted to give their input. “They told us, ‘that’s really not what you should do in this meeting, we’re just here to discuss and get a general vibe. You’re all very loud.’ They wanted to let everyone speak, but nobody besides us had read the documents,” Elena added.

Elena recalled survivors standing before the committee, sharing their stories and experiences. “The administration sat in silence and rolled their eyes,” she said.

“Watching survivors recount their trauma while crying hysterically as these overpaid motherfuckers scroll through Instagram, rolling their eyes, is just evil. That kind of behaviour is the true definition of SMSV,”

said Elena.

Since its inception, Concordia’s sexual violence policy has been under harsh scrutiny. According to Sophie Hough, former student representative on the SMSV, systemic change must take place. Hough is a member of Students for Consent Culture (SFCC), the group responsible for the 2017 Our Turn report, a national action plan that examined 14 Canadian universities’ sexual violence policies. The Our Turn report gave Concordia a D- on sexual violence policies.

“Students on campus have been advocating pretty tirelessly since 2011 for a standalone sexual violence policy,” she said. According to SFCC, a standalone sexual violence policy is completely independent from the Code of Rights and Responsibilities—a requirement they claim Concordia does not meet. 

For any changes in sexual violence policy, students, faculty, and other stakeholders must be included, Bill 151 states. The SMSV must have student representatives to function. In November 2022, the University appointed four new representatives from the student body at large.

When asked for the names of the current SMSV members, Maestracci would not disclose the information “due to concerns around the current climate for these members.”

The Link and The Concordian both reached out to SMSV Chair and Equity Director Lisa White for comment, but were denied. According to Maestracci, “the Chair of the Standing Committee still hopes to meet the CSU and GSA to discuss the issues with them directly, rather than through student media.”

An Alternative Approach

For some sexual violence survivors on campus, using the resources provided by the institution in which they were assaulted can be traumatizing. Many have to look outside the university for the help they need.

According to Deborah Trent, executive director at the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre (MSAC), universities are legally required to have services, procedures and policies in place to deal with sexual violence.

If universities fail to follow their own procedures, Trent said, survivors have the full right to seek guidance outside the institution.

“They have every right to press charges; they have every right to go to the police,” she explained. “But for a whole lot of people, it’s a really difficult decision.”

Since 2010, the organization has operated a Sexual Violence Helpline to ensure survivors have a place to share their experiences and get information and resources that best fit their case.

Nonetheless, since the SMSV boycott began in October 2022, students and workers have mobilized to create an alternative within Concordia. 

In order to combat the restrictive nature of the committee and call for a complete restructuring of the university’s sexual violence policies, a grassroots, worker-led group called the Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA) was created.

ITFA contains a variety of student and worker groups at the university, including the CSU, GSA and TRAC. They aim to find solutions to sexual violence at Concordia from and for the people most affected by the issue. 

TRAC delegate Mathilde Laroche said that the main problem with the current SMSV committee is rooted in its lack of student inclusion. “It doesn’t give any space for students to be involved and informed or to have the right information to participate in the decision-making,” they said.  

Julianna Smith, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, believes that very little meaningful change can be made through the SMSV. “Right now, the students are completely outnumbered on the SMSV committee,” said Smith. “So even when we are able to mobilize as students and work together, we’re always outvoted so we can’t actually put any initiatives forward.”

The need for student-centred solutions was an important part of the decision to boycott the SMSV. 

“ITFA works within a transformative justice framework. It is important to have an organization that is authentically interested in addressing sexualized abuses of power,” said GSA representative Akinyi Oluoch. 

“Addressing these abuses at their root will require worker, student, community, and survivor-led processes of justice,” she added.

Infographic by Natasha Spinelli and Iness Rifay

With files from Hannah Vogan, Iness Rifay, Joëlle Jalbert, Maria Cholakova, Marieke Glorieux-Stryckman, and Zachary Fortier.

  • In a previous iteration of this article and the podcast, a quote mentioned a correlation between the way sexual violence and plagiarism are handled at Concordia. This quote was incorrect: sexual violence falls under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities and plagiarism falls under the Academic Code of Conduct.
  • In a previous iteration of this article, it was stated that 70 per cent of students were dissatisfied with the outcome of their case after dealing with SARC. This was incorrect: 70 per cent of students were dissatisfied with the reporting process overall.
  • In the article, a source mentions that Concordia does not have a mandatory in-person sexual violence training involving a facilitator for students. Concordia does offer such a training; it is mandatory for athletes and student leaders, and optional for the rest of the student body. The source believes it should be mandatory for all students. This clarification has been made.

Montrealers march for International Women’s Day

Student unions denounce a continued lack of gender equity in universities

To mark International Women’s Day, demonstrators marched downtown to demand gender equality in Quebec and throughout the world.

Speakers at the march deplored the various ways women’s rights are undermined across the globe: from a lack of access to education, healthcare and reproductive rights or through threats of abuse, femicide, as well as sexual and domestic violence.

The most recent Statistics Canada study states that 34,242 women were victims of sexual assault over the course of 2021 in Canada. The data refers only to cases reported to the police and, according to the Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions sexuelles (The Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centers), it is estimated that only 10 per cent of women victims of sexual assault file a complaint with the police

Another Statistics Canada study released in 2020 found that 71 per cent of students at Canadian postsecondary schools “witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in a postsecondary setting in 2019.” These numbers include on-campus or off-campus situations involving other students or people associated with scholastic institutions.

Representatives from Concordia’s Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA) were present to support women and victims of sexual violence.

Composed of the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union, the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and the Centre for Gender Advocacy, ITFA is a student-run group that advocates for student-led solutions, transparency and gender equity at Concordia.

Julianna Smith, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, and representative of ITFA, said the group wanted to use the attention that came with International Women’s Day to voice their demands and support feminist causes. 

“We had a rally back at Concordia in support of Concordia’s specific demands, supporting the boycott of the University’s SMSV [Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence] and now we are here to support the broader women’s movement,” said Smith. 

ITFA started the ongoing boycott of SMSV, claiming that the fight against sexual violence at Concordia should take into account the voices of students and victims.

“The main argument that we have is that Concordia’s SMSV is in majority faculty and management and they don’t actually listen to students and what we need to see in order to manage and prevent sexual violence in the University,” said Becca Wilgosh, TRAC’s vice-president and ITFA representative.

Wilgosh said ITFA wants to call into question how the University has so far addressed sexual violence on campus. She pointed out that Concordia’s administration comes from a position of power, a factor that can lead to abuse.

“It should be bottom-up, it should be run by the people who are more likely to be subject to it, so we are trying to construct alternatives that actually centre survivors, students and staff workers.”

Said Wilgosh.

For Smith, there is still a long way to go when it comes to feminist movements in universities throughout Quebec. 

“One thing that I’ve noticed about the student movement in Quebec as a whole is that right now we’re very stuck in this gender parity issue, it’s very second-wave feminism,” said Smith. “For ITFA, we want to take an approach that’s much broader than that […] it’s about dismantling all structures of power.”

Concordia Student Union News

Boycott of Concordia’s Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence committee continues

The standing committee responsible for combatting sexual violence on campus remains highly unpopular Amongst the student body

Debates raged at the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) regular council meeting (RCM) on Jan. 11, over the ongoing boycott of the University’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV) as student representatives discussed potential solutions to end sexual misconduct on campus. 

The boycott dates back to October 5, 2022, when the CSU, alongside the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) formally withdrew from the SMSV.

The action came after years of criticism from members of the SMSV and from the student body at large over the committee’s lack of transparency and failure to support survivors of sexual assault.

The conversation was sparked after it came to light that multiple candidates had been appointed to the SMSV during an appointments committee meeting last December. This action, if passed, would have ended the CSU’s ongoing boycott of the SMSV.

Fawaz Halloum, general coordinator of the CSU, explained the reason behind the appointments committee’s decision at the RCM on Jan. 11. According to Halloum, the decision was made in response to Lisa White, executive director of the Equity Office at Concordia University and chair of the SMSV, who was threatening to appoint students to the committee without the CSU’s consent.

“I find it very troubling because it takes a lot from our power as a union,”

Said Halloum. 

After consulting with a legal expert, Halloum said he was advised that the best course of action would be to appoint students to the SMSV — either to ensure the CSU maintains a voice on the committee, or to continue the protest by having committee members refuse to show up.

The proposed nomination was met with harsh criticism from many in attendance at last week’s RCM.

TRAC’s bargaining officer Mya Walmsley called the move “disgraceful.” Walmsley believes that the concessions the University’s offered in response to end the dispute was not made with the students body’s best interests, but rather to legitimise the SMSV’s poor track record. 

“Obviously [the administration is] going to try to get you back with honey [rather than vinegar],” said Walmsley. “Promising these sorts of vague and nonspecific concessions is the way to do it.”

Walmsley asserted that, due to the current circumstances, the best course of action would be to further escalate the conflict to press their demands.

“We have the power now, we have the opportunity to talk to Lisa White whenever we want, we just don’t have to do it through the committee [SMSV],” said Walmsley.

“The argument that we gain more power by ending the boycott is absurd. It’s like giving up power will give us more power.”

Said Wamsley.

The CSU’s External Affairs Coordinator Julianna Smith presented a motion which was passed to reject the appointment committee’s nomination to continue the boycott. 

However, CSU counsellor Mohamad Abdallah spoke out against continuing the boycott. He questioned the purpose of an indefinite boycott and argued that the decision was harming students. 

“How is this boycott harming [the administration] more than it is harming us by preventing us from representation? They have already appointed new people on that committee,” said Abdallah.

Abdallah also challenged the idea that those in favour of ending the boycott were, in essence, supporting the current policies that are in place.  

“Our goal is the same at the end of the day, but we are taking different roads to reach the same goal, which is to change these policies regarding sexual violence and sexual harrassment in the University,” said Abdallah.

Nevertheless, Abdallah’s position remained unpopular amongst CSU councillors. The boycott of the SMSV will continue into the foreseeable future.


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.


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


Implementing Bill 151 at Concordia

Standing committee shares ideas with other institutions in Montreal.

Concordia is working to implement the requirements of Bill 151 by the deadline of Jan. 1, 2019. Bill 151 is the Act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions. The university’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence is mandated to implement the obligations of that bill and the June 2018 recommendations of Concordia’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence report.

The committee has been working on the requirements of Bill 151 since September, according to Lisa Ostiguy, the chair of the committee and special advisor to the provost on campus life.

“After we complete the changes needed for Bill 151, there is all kinds of work we will be doing on the task force recommendations,” said Ostiguy.

Bill 151 states that post-secondary institutions must adopt a policy to prevent and fight sexual violence before Sept. 1, 2019. A first copy must be submitted by Jan. 1, 2019.

The policy the university is responsible for implementing must also include a code of conduct and guidelines on faculty-student relationships. Concordia released these guidelines last January.

Concordia’s current policy on sexual violence and sexual misconduct is currently under effect until the new one takes over. Ostiguy said the difference between the current policy and the one being developed is that the latter will be more survivor-focused. The new policy will give “a much bigger context around the importance of sexual violence,” said Ostiguy. “Anytime we open up our policy to add anything, it’s a good opportunity to take a big look at it and that’s what we’ve been doing,” she added.

The standing committee is made up of 25 members. Ostiguy said any member representing a union or an association was nominated by their respective association.

One of the bill’s requirements is gathering all sexual violence-related services and resources in one area of the university, such as the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) in Concordia’s case.

Training and education are also significant parts of the implementation of the bill and the task force’s recommendations. Thus, Concordia has already created a subcommittee for education and training for faculty and students, chaired by SARC Coordinator, Jennifer Drummond.

Until today, the subcommittee will only have met twice. Ostiguy told The Concordian she couldn’t comment on what the subcommittee is currently working on with regards to training. However, she said SARC is developing an online version of the training.

Last week, Concordia’s standing committee had a meeting with universities and CEGEPs in the greater Montreal area to discuss their progress in implementing Bill 151. McGill, Université de Montréal and Université de Sherbrooke were all present.

“Concordia had a lot of things in place for Bill 151 so I think we actually may have been more informative to others than others [were] to us,” said Ostiguy. “What was the most exciting was talking about how we are going to work together, share our resources, develop training together.”

The standing committee is meeting with other higher education institutions in May as well to discuss their progress.

Students can always give feedback to Concordia’s standing committee at their monthly public consultation. The next consultation will be held on Dec. 5 at 9 a.m. in GM-200 on the downtown campus, and on Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. in room AD-230 on the Loyola campus.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.


Joining forces to denounce exploitation and sexual violence

30,000 Quebec students rally to demand salary wages for unpaid internships

Nearly 30,000 students across Quebec mobilized to protest against unpaid internships and denounce the sexual violence many students, particularly women, experience in the workplace on Thursday, March 8. In tandem with International Women’s Day, the Montreal Coalition for paid internships organized their third large-scale protest to demand that student interns be given proper wage compensation, as well as access to the internal resources at their workplaces that are exclusively available to paid employees.

The coalition was formed in early June 2017 by multiple student unions and associations to unite against labour exploitation. “We think that by asking for wages for interns it will change the situation because, in Quebec […] when you’re an intern, you are below every [paid] worker, and you don’t have protection,” said Kaelle Stapels, one of the organizers of the march and a member of the Montreal Coalition for paid internships.

Unpaid internships are illegal in Quebec, except when the student is completing an internship for course credit either for an approved educational institution, as part of vocational training or if the student is working for a non-profit organization, according to the Canadian Intern Association.

Jeanne Dufresne, a Université du Québec à Montréal student protester, explained how degrees that require students to do a minimum number of hours as an intern before graduating are particularly problematic. According to Dufresne, an internship is a “full-time job [and students] need to do that to get their diploma, so that’s why it’s frustrating, because after the work, they need to go [find] a part-time job” to subsidize the costs of being in school and working full-time with no income.

“When I’m doing my internship as a nurse and I’m with my patients, I’m legally responsible for [them] as I would be if I were a real nurse. But I’m not paid,” Stapels said.

While the coalition demands that every student, regardless of gender, be fairly compensated as working interns, many of its members emphasize that women are more vulnerable when it comes to labour exploitation and sexual harassment in the workplace.

A crowd of 300 protesters chant while they trek uphill towards Docteur-Penfield Avenue along Atwater Avenue. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Although it’s possible to experience sexual violence in every program or field, Stapels explained that women who are in programs such as nursing, social work or education have an increased chance of experiencing exploitation and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Stapels also explained that because female interns in particular are not given the same protection as paid employees through their placement’s administration, if they experience sexual harassment while working, often their only option is to use the resources available through their university. “And we all know schools do nothing,” Stapels said. “The resources that are in place now, they’re not [enough]. They don’t do the job.”

According to a report titled l’Enquête sexualité, sécurité et interactions en milieu universitaire (ESSIMU) conducted by over a dozen researchers, about 37 per cent of university students have reported incidents of sexual violence or harassment in Quebec training programs. One third of the reported incidents occured within a hierarchical context. Due to the power dynamics found within academic institutions, the report explains, students are often at a disadvantage when reporting sexual misconduct.

The march was organized mainly to protest against unpaid internships and sexual violence in the workplace, however, given that it occured in conjunction with International Women’s Day, many protesters gathered to denounce gendered violence altogether. Maintaining an open dialogue between people and encouraging women to speak up about the problems they experience daily, explained student protester Giverny Welsch, “[is] what is so remarkable about what’s happening right now.” Welsch emphasized how this open dialogue is key to formulating both a community and a movement that are geared towards inclusivity. “We’re humans because we are able to communicate.”

A crowd of 300 protesters chant while they trek uphill towards Docteur-Penfield Avenue along Atwater Avenue. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Building relationships by empowering women, said Lucie Arson, a protester who preferred to use a pseudonym, is the first step towards starting a movement and creating a strong community that works towards positive change as a united front. “[As] a non-binary trans person, and as a sex worker, I kind of feel alone and not represented […] but right now, I’m feeling great,” having met people with similar experiences, Arson said. “There’s a [feeling of] solidarity.”

Sexism still exists, “[it] is a problem everyday,” said Arson, and it can be life-threatening for countless women all over the world. “Patriarchy works in a way where we are always opposed to other women around us, so I think it’s time to rebuild these relationships and fight together.”

Photos by Alex Hutchins

Concordia Student Union News

CSU handed task force recruitment

Concordia’s decision fulfills only one of the union’s requests for more transparency

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) will take over the process of recruiting undergraduate students for the new university task force on sexual misconduct and sexual violence, announced Graham Carr, the university’s provost and vice-president of academic affairs, on Feb. 2.

This decision comes one day after the student union held a press conference outlining their opposition to multiple procedures regarding the nomination process for the two undergraduate spots available on the task force.

The controversy began on Jan. 26, when Concordia president Alan Shepard released a statement outlining steps the university would be taking in the wake of allegations of sexual violence and misconduct against multiple faculty members in the creative writing program.

One of the steps was the creation of a task force that would review current policies and processes, as well as Bill 151, a piece of Quebec legislation requiring universities to take certain steps to address and prevent sexual violence.

It was later announced that four students (two graduate and two undergraduate) would be appointed to the task force. Despite claiming the university was looking for “a diverse group from across the university,” the call for applications specified that undergraduate applicants must have completed at least 30 credits and be in “good academic standing.”

On Feb. 1, the CSU held a press conference in their office on the seventh floor of the Hall building. During the conference, CSU student life coordinator Leyla Sutherland read from the union’s press release, claiming the task force procedures violated Quebec law by recruiting undergraduate students without the CSU’s involvement. She cited the “Act respecting the accreditation and financing of students’ associations,” a piece of provincial legislation that specifies student associations, such as the CSU, “may, alone, appoint students who […] are called upon to sit or participate as student representatives on various councils, committees or other bodies in the institution.”

“Beyond the cited legal concerns, this indifference in proper student representation shown by the university goes against both the spirit and letter of Bill 151,” said Sutherland. “It is imperative for students, and only students, to have a say as to who represents them.”

The press release also outlined a number of requests, including doubling the number of undergraduate students on the task force and ensuring representation from all faculties. Another request also asked that the requirement of good academic standing be removed.

Sophia Sahrane, the research and education coordinator for the student advocacy organization Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), also spoke out against the task force’s academic requirements at the press conference.

“[The academic requirements] demonstrate a deep lack of both understanding and compassion for the reality of living through the trauma of sexual assault and having to become a survivor,” Sahrane said. “How do you maintain a good academic standing when you have just been sexually assaulted? When you have had your agency taken away from you […] when your abuser is your professor?”

Also present at the press conference was Caitlin Salvino, the chair of the Our Turn committee, a student-led initiative aimed at ending campus sexual violence. Salvino claimed it is not uncommon for universities to exclude student unions and the students they represent when addressing sexual violence.

“Students and student unions across the country have been locked out of task forces, committees and being able to advocate for policies that are actually survivor-centric,” Salvino said.

On Feb. 2, another email related to the task force was circulated to all students. In this email, Carr wrote that the university had decided to allow the CSU to oversee the recruitment process of undergraduate task force members. The same day, university spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr told The Concordian the university would accede to the CSU executive request “because [its] overriding goal is to finalize, as soon as possible, the membership of the task force so it can begin to work.”

Sutherland pointed out that, while the university’s quick response to co-operate is a positive sign, the university has not met the union’s additional demands.

“We are very glad that the university is handing this process over to us as we have been requesting,” Sutherland said. “It is absolutely essential that student representatives be chosen by students and not by the administration, which presents a clear conflict of interest […] We will continue to advocate for four undergraduate students and the removal of the good academic standing criteria.”



The link between victim blaming and rape culture

Victim blaming is just one of the tools used to silence a person who has been sexually assaulted

Rape culture is culture that normalizes sexual violence and trivializes a person’s experience with it, according to the Huffington Post. This could be in the form of jokes about rape or songs that insinuate sexual violence. In my opinion, the stigma and attitude surrounding sexual assault in our society plays into rape culture. Victim blaming comes up a lot in conversations about sexual assault, and is a large part of rape culture.

I believe part of the mentality behind victim blaming is people’s need to feel safe. By asking questions like “What were you wearing?” or “How much did you drink?,” people are able to separate themselves from victims. By finding a way to make rape the fault of the victim, it is easier for people to deny that assault can happen to anyone. No one wants to believe bad things can happen to good people. But the truth is, sexual violence can happen to anyone at any time—and no one ever deserves it.

Victim blaming will not protect you. Blaming victims of sexual assault silences others who haven’t come forward about their experience. And while some may argue that society is becoming more receptive to victims looking to share their experiences, there are still far too many publicized cases of sexual violence that create a narrative where the alleged assaulter walks free and the victim is left traumatized and humiliated.

More than 50 women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault—and were faced with criticism and disbelief, according to CNN. Donald Trump has openly bragged about assaulting women, yet he was elected president of the United States. How are victims supposed to feel safe sharing their experiences when history has shown it will only cause them more pain?

According to Sexual Assault Statistics, in Canada, only six out of every 100 incidents of sexual assault are reported to the police. Someone who speaks openly about their sexual assault is usually met with disbelief, suspicion and blame. There is no guarantee the perpetrators of these crimes will be punished appropriately. When you throw the possibility of victim blaming into the mix, it becomes nearly impossible for someone to muster up the strength to talk openly about their assault.

Although many women have shared their stories of sexual assault since the Weinstein allegations, it is important to note that this doesn’t mean all victims will now come forward. In my opinion, victims coming forward after the allegations against Weinstein—and even Cosby—increases the fear surrounding the idea of reporting sexual assault. Seeing the way these victims are treated by some media can silence other victims.

Recent cases in Quebec, including a judge making victim blaming comments in court, have reinforced my feelings. Justice Jean-Paul Braun said a sexual assault victim was most likely “flattered” by the experience, and he questioned whether kissing is sexual or if consent is needed, according to CTV News.

The idea that the victim should have been flattered enforces the idea that women should be grateful for any attention men give them. The judge insinuated the kiss was not a big deal. This is dehumanizing and encourages rape culture.

As a woman, I’ve been subjected to street harassment and crude comments, among other things. The attitude that a victim must have done something to deserve their assault only makes these experiences worse, especially knowing punishments won’t be carried out. I find myself analyzing my outfit whenever I’m catcalled, fearing I did something wrong. Victim blaming affects all of us. If I were assaulted tonight, and if I chose to tell anyone, I would be terrified of what would be said about me tomorrow.

So how can we change this? We need to listen to victims. We have to understand that only one person is to blame for sexual assault—the assaulter. The victim is never at fault, and there is no reason to judge someone who has been assaulted.

No one asks to be subjected to sexual violence, and no one deserves it. We must work to change the conversation around sexual violence because we should no longer be the reason victims are silenced.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Ovarian Psycos: channeling anger into progress

New documentary tackles issues of sexual violence and gender inequality

One in three women will experience physical and/or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

Ovarian Psycos, a documentary that will be shown at Cinema Politica on March 6, uses this fact to drive the entire film. The documentary follows a bicycle brigade of womxn of colour, female-identifying individuals and gender nonconforming people in East L.A.

The brigade serves as a refuge for individuals who identify as outcasts from society, and need a safe space and community to go to. They organize bike rides and demonstrations around L.A. as a way to raise awareness about gender inequality, sexual violence, and murdered and missing womxn of colour, to name a few.

The film follows several members of the Ovas—which is short for Ovarian Psycos—from the founder, Xena de la X, to a new member, Evie. It sheds light on the difficult reality of living as womxn of colour in L.A. and dealing with traditional, post-colonized Mexican family expectations.

Xena was subject to relentless abuse as a child, which motivated her to create a safe space for womxn of colour to heal and act together. She came up with the idea of the Ovas not only to support those in need, but also as a united force to protest against the social injustices she had faced. Evie, a 21-year-old second-generation Mexican womxn, said her mother did not understand why she joined a cycling group because she believed cycling was a sport for men, and only men. Yet Evie found comfort and confidence in the Ovas by defying gender stereotypes and defining her identity outside of traditional constructs.

The Ovarian Psycos found their name by reclaiming their biology and female bodies as powerful, strong, defiant vessels through which to spread awareness and acceptance. The members wear bandanas printed with symbols of ovaries over their mouths as a way to reclaim urban gang culture in an all-inclusive, coloured, female context. They ride through the dark streets of L.A. howling, chanting and laughing as they go. Xena explained that, by channeling their anger and frustration into a progressive, active movement, they are able to release their inner “psychos” and confront patriarchal oppression in a public space.

The Ovas vow to always have love for their “sisters” and to keep their “spirits always rebellious.” By maintaining a safe community, they are able to gather large numbers and act as a powerful collective unit.

There is also a strong history of civil rights movements in East L.A., which the Ovas recognize, and they acknowledge their responsibility to continue it. Drawing inspiration from the Chicano Movement of the 1960s, the Ovas aim to recognize the historical oppression of Mexican Americans and reclaim racial violence that they were and are still subject to.

Due to the specificity of their movement and their experience dealing with intersectional oppression, the Ovas have received backlash from some members of the surrounding society. This opposition only fuels their desire to spread awareness of societal oppression of womxn and womxn of colour, and the realities of living as a minority in American society.

Cinema Politica will be showing Ovarian Psycos on Monday, March 6 at 7 p.m. in room H-110. Entry is by donation.

Writer’s note: The term “womxn” is a feminist term to differentiate women from the “man/men” part of the word.


Blowing the lid off slut-shaming

The documentary UnSlut takes a look at the emotional and psychological effects of slut-shaming and sexual violence

Right to Campus, a student organization at McGill University that promotes an inclusive and equitable culture on campus, held a free screening of the documentary UnSlut at McGill on Jan. 23.

UnSlut follows the stories of several women and girls who have been victims of slut-shaming and sexual violence. Their traumatic experiences are explicitly discussed and layered with comments from psychologists, sexologists, activists and other experts of sexuality and social behaviour.

The entire documentary is intense and heartbreaking. But it is also imperative, as it allows for a deep understanding of the impacts of the sexual abuse, bullying and harassment that are rampant in high schools and in North American society as a whole.

The film was followed by a group discussion, led by Right to Campus members Arianne Kent and Dina Al Shawwa, and three panelists. The panel consisted of Vrinda Narain, an associate professor and the associate dean of the faculty of law at McGill, Kathryn Travers, the executive director of Women in Cities International, and Dr. Carine Hamel, a psychiatrist at McGill Mental Health Services.

Emily Lindin, the director of the film and the creator of the UnSlut Project, narrates throughout the film. She explained she was driven to bring awareness to the impacts of slut shaming when she heard of Rehtaeh Parsons’ tragic story. In 2013, Parsons committed suicide a year and a half after being gang raped and then relentlessly harassed, in person and online, by classmates. She had been subjected to extreme slut-shaming, even after switching high schools. Sadly, as the film shows, Parsons’ story is one of many in North America. Lindin said she recognized the commonness and gravity of these experiences and decided to work towards starting a nationwide conversation.

In the film, Lindin emphasized the lack of education regarding healthy sexual behaviour and consent as one of the main causes of sexual violence in North American high schools and the harassment that follows. In the discussion after the film screening, the importance of education, not only in a formal setting such as high school, but also at home and in social settings, was emphasized several times. All three panelists agreed that the topic of sexual violence needs to be addressed from an informed and resourceful position, rather than one of judgement and fear, which results in slut-shaming and harassment.

The discussion continued with several members of the audience addressing the fact that the film did not include stories of minorities such as women of colour, members of the queer community and indigenous women. A number of speakers expressed that, as is the case with all women’s rights issues, it is necessary to address the subject of sexual violence and slut-shaming with an intersectional approach.

From these comments and further explanation from the panel, it was discussed that slut-shaming and other forms of sexual violence may appear in different ways when found in different contexts. For example, slut shaming may take a different form when it occurs outside of the high school environment, and an experience of sexual violence could be drastically different in the context of the queer community, than it would for a cisgender, heterosexual person. The panelists were quick to confirm that no experience should be considered more valid or important than another, and that it is crucial to address the variety of realities within which sexual violence can occur.

If you or anyone you know needs access to support and resources concerning the topics discussed, the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) offers a variety of services to Concordia students, on and off campus. The drop-in centre is located in room 300.27, in the GM building at the Sir George Williams campus. SARC offers confidential emotional support, as well as contact with additional services that may be needed.

Counselling and psychological services are available on both campuses in the form of 10 free sessions, and can be used at any point during your studies. In addition, the Centre for Gender Advocacy offers support, either in-person at 2110 Mackay St., or through their peer support line, 514-848-2424 x 7880.

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