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.


Concordia student files two ethics complaints against five SPVM officers

Student said she felt dismissed and minimized when reporting her harasser to the Montreal police


A Concordia University student has filed two ethics complaints against five Montreal police officers over the dismissive treatment she endured while reporting a harassment complaint.

The 30-year-old PhD student Anna* told The Concordian she felt continuously dismissed and disparaged by the SPVM officers.

Over the course of a month, Anna said she made several attempts to report a man who had been stalking and harassing her on the downtown campus.

The Center for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) will be assisting Anna with the two complaints filed with the Quebec Police Ethics Commission. According to a statement on the issue released by CRARR, Anna was harassed in October and November of 2019.

“He followed me to coffee shops, and my workplace at Concordia, and would seemingly know my schedule,” said Anna.

She decided to file a formal criminal complaint to police at Station 20 near the downtown campus after the two months of harassment escalated to a physical altercation with the man.

She explained her situation at the station but was told that the officer who would listen to her complaint was busy with an Amazon package theft, and that she had to come back later.

“I had a feeling that there was no sense of triage, there was no sense of the gravity of my situation being taken seriously,” said Anna.

After she returned to the station, this time escorted by a Concordia security guard later that evening, Anna said she had to fill out a document about her complaint behind a glass window sitting in a waiting room chair.

She said this process took hours of back and forth with the officers, who asked her to describe details such as what her harasser was wearing, what time of day the incidents occurred, and what was said.

When she described to the supervising officer what the man looked like, Anna said the officer responded, “Sounds like a good looking man, why don’t you go on a date with him?”

“I was really shocked at this callous and offensive conduct,” said Anna.

After filing her complaint, she told an officer that she was scared, and asked to be escorted home. The officer dismissed Anna’s request, asking her if the attacker was at her home “right now,” and if she had any friends or family that could help her instead.

“Instead of supporting vulnerable women, who already self-identify as ‘I’m in trouble, I’m vulnerable’ there’s a sense of ‘we can’t help you, go find some friends, why don’t you call your family.’”

Anna is not originally from Montreal, and said she didn’t have a support system she could rely on at the time.

A few days later, Anna said she was terrified to be walking home from class at night, only to find the door to her apartment already open. She called 911, but the police officers took over an hour to arrive. The officers then gave Anna a document for her to fill out her complaint report, again.

The officers told Anna she would have to follow up with her complaint at the police station near the downtown campus, where it was initially filed.

After they left, Anna said she felt she needed to know more about her harasser. She decided to research about him online after obtaining information on her harasser from a police document. That’s when Anna found out he had a history of sexual assault.

“It hit me at that moment, that the police had a record of him and yet still did nothing to protect me, or even inform me of his record.”

Afraid for her safety, Anna went to the police station and waited for hours at the detention centre for a detective to look at her case.

“I was too afraid to go home,” she said.

On several occasions, Anna said when she tried to communicate in English about her case with the SPVM, officers were reluctant or outright dismissive of her case.

Anna described trying to follow up on nine separate occasions, and officers would hang up on her, or walk away from her at the station. On one occasion, she said she called and spoke to a supervising officer about her case only to have him say “tabarnak” and hang up on her.

“Being minimized, being laughed at, and not being taken seriously, and to have to chase the police down for my own safety, all of these are barriers to access to justice for women like me.”

Executive Director of the CRARR Fo Niemi, who is assisting Anna with her case, says this is the first time he has seen a case like this.

“We haven’t seen something so blatantly egregious like this, especially in terms of the very offensive comments that she got at the police station, and the fact that she had to run after police officers and the police department and after [reaching out] several times in order to get at least somebody to call back,” said Niemi.

According to Niemi, Anna’s two police ethics complaints involve incidents which occurred at the SPVM police station, and the incident in which the officers came to her apartment after it was broken into.

What concerns Niemi is not only the treatment Anna endured, but whether this is a systemic issue.

“If accessing a police department or police services involves this kind of reaction and conduct, you can imagine how many women may not even go to the police for fear of not being taken seriously and not being believed.”

SPVM spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant says the SPVM could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

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


Graphic by @the.beta.lab



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


Sorry, I can’t come to class today; I don’t feel safe

TW: Sexual Assault

One student’s experience with the lack of trigger warnings provided in class

A good learning environment should equal a safe space. As someone who has experienced trauma, you go through life avoiding triggers, as if running through a field of landmines. You spend hours, days, weeks, learning to strengthen your armor rather than focus on successfully avoiding things that will pry open that wound, because today’s society is littered with triggers. It is easier to develop thicker skin, than to ask people to respect you.

I have spent the last three years of my English literature degree wondering why it isn’t officially required for professors to include content/trigger warnings in their syllabi, as well as at the start of every class where the discussion will contain triggering content.

There are so many issues with academia, and power dynamics within professor-student relationships is one of the biggest ones. A student in a classroom becomes dependent on the professor in order to learn and expand their knowledge. It should be normal for professors to acknowledge these power dynamics. It should be normal for professors to cultivate a safe learning environment for their students by providing content warnings. It’s a question of respect; a question of simple accessibility.

The thing is, I should not have to out myself as a survivor to a professor, in order to ask them to provide a safe and inclusive classroom setting. It should be non-negotiable. It should be an expectation. I was told by someone at the Sexual Assault Resource Center at Concordia, when I approached them for help regarding this exact matter, that I lose nothing by sending an email to a professor about personal issues regarding lack of trigger warnings––that if a professor responded negatively, then it was a whole other issue of respect. But still, do I need to out myself?

Teachers must acknowledge power dynamics, use their power to better these situations, and not ignore them. By not acknowledging this issue, especially considering the current socio-political climate, they are in the wrong. They cannot stand by and claim to not be involved. They cannot not be involved. By not acting, they are perpetuating the stigma and shame associated with triggers. Calling people out, providing trigger warnings, establishing a safe learning environment––it’s the least they can do.

I should not have to be vulnerable and afraid to go to class. I have had to step forward and out myself as a survivor to so many of my professors in order for them to acknowledge this issue. That should not be required of me. People who don’t think trigger warnings are necessary can argue that I had a choice to stay silent, but by saying something, I was not only protecting myself, but also other survivors who did not wish to speak up.

It’s typical for professors in the English department to acknowledge the presence of violent, triggering content in texts studied, but rather than use that to warn their students, we’re told that literature studies is full of triggering content, and that’s what makes it fascinating. We’re told that we can’t have literature without the difficult content that comes with it, so we should get over it. Why is this normalized? I am not arguing against the presence of these texts in our classrooms, but rather arguing for a better way of handling them; a better, more respectful and inclusive way of studying them. This piece is not meant to attack anyone. I am simply trying to raise people’s awareness on this subject. I want to make people understand that these things exist, and they affect a lot of us.

If you are not someone who has experienced trauma, you lose nothing by respecting those who have. You lose nothing by providing safe, inclusive environments. Why wouldn’t you want to? Why is there even an argument against providing safe spaces?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



Confronting trauma with humour

Concordia hosted Rape is Real & Everywhere, a comedy show featuring survivors of sexual assault

“We have to engage. And what better way to engage with a discourse in which you are constantly being painted as the humourless snowflake […] than by getting up there and actually joking about the thing.” This was professor Emer O’Toole’s take on Rape is Real & Everywhere (RIR&E), a comedy show put on by survivors of sexual assault that was held at Concordia on Sept. 29.

O’Toole is a professor of performance studies at Concordia’s School of Irish Studies, as well as a founding member of the university’s Feminism and Controversial Humour Working Group. She formed the group alongside fellow professors Gada Mahrouse of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute and Danielle Bobker from the English department.

“I think we had shared interests in those intersections in feminism and comedy where the subjects are controversial—where stuff like sexual assault and race and gender and all of those things that, if you joke about them, create some tension,” O’Toole said.

At the working group’s symposium last year, the three professors got the chance to converse with like minded-individuals, such as the comedians from the RIR&E show. “We just had the most mind-blowing discussions,” O’Toole said earnestly. “I thought, ‘Wow, I want my students to see this.’”

When comedians Heather Jordan Ross and Emma Cooper, the creators of RIR&E, suggested bringing the show to Concordia, O’Toole and Mahrouse were immediately on board.

Ross and Cooper are two standup comedians based out of Vancouver. In 2015, they came up with the idea of hosting a comedy show about rape and sexual assault because Ross wanted to find a way to talk about her experience of sexual assault. According to O’Toole, by only featuring survivors of sexual assault in their show, Ross and Cooper wanted to steer the conversation towards something more up front and less shameful.

“There’s so much power in using comedy,” O’Toole said. “Your activism can do a lot of work under a subterfuge of performance.”

O’Toole, Ross and Cooper have come to be very familiar with the argument that “there are just some things that shouldn’t be joked about”, especially while promoting the RIR&E show. Although she understands that some people will not agree with what they are doing, O’Toole said: “I’m skeptical of anyone who tries to tell someone else how they can deal with their trauma.”

She explained that, as comedians, Ross and Cooper began the comedy show as a way for Ross to cope with the pain caused by her assault. According to a promotional email describing the show, while some people cope in a solemn way, “other people need to laugh. Making jokes about life—sour parts, sweet parts—is, for some, the best mode of communicating what they’re going through.”

In addition to using comedy as a coping mechanism, O’Toole said the show is meant to “reclaim the narrative of rape” on a cultural level. Instead of believing “rape myths,” which define sexual assault within a rigid framework, telling real-life stories to a crowd of people “completely changes that narrative,” the professor said.

“It’s the chance to take control of one’s own story, but also to take back that narrative of what rape is from a dominant culture that wants to make it something that only evil men do, and [make it] something that is so real and everywhere.”

According to the show’s description, “RIR&E has played across Canada, made national and international news and even been the subject of a CBC radio documentary.” Following a run of sold-out shows, RIR&E is now touring university campuses across Canada in hopes of offering an alternative way for students to confront and learn about sexual assault and consent.

Concordia was the first stop on RIR&E’s university tour. The event was in collaboration with the Concordia Student Union, the Fine Arts Student Alliance, the Graduate Students’ Association and the Feminism and Controversial Humour Working Group. During the show, Cooper told the sold-out audience that it was the largest crowd they had ever performed for.

To learn more about the Feminism and Controversial Humour Working Group, visit the group’s page on Concordia’s website. For information about upcoming RIR&E shows and events, visit their website.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

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