It was in 12th grade that a person I considered smart and decent told me that people who chose not to report their experiences of sexual violence are “cowards.”
It was hard to know what to say to something that seemed so excruciatingly ignorant, wrong and painful. What was more difficult was to understand that he did not come to this assumption by himself. He was supported by a society that largely undervalues comprehensive sexual education and consent culture. His comment was not meant to be hurtful or provocative. He truly believed that the issue of sexual violence rested in the inaction of victims.
These misconceptions will not be eliminated unless we challenge them. Now as university students, stories like these should embolden us to educate ourselves and reject the rape culture that has become implicit in our lives, and our campus.
University campuses are supposed to be a place of curiosity, growth, exploration and community- and in many ways, they are. But what happens when walking to class doesn’t feel safe or having drinks with friends feels dangerous?
As of 2020, 71% of post-secondary students in Canada witnessed or experienced what StatCan characterizes as “unwanted sexualized behaviours.” For many of us, this statistic is not surprising, but surely it should be concerning.
Far too often, students’ university experiences are affected by experiences of sexual violence. Having your autonomy and boundaries violated can be isolating, traumatic and disorienting.
At Carleton’s Sexual Assault Support Centre, our mission is twofold. We work with the community to educate staff and students about consent, in the hope of preventing sexual violence. We are also committed to fostering an accessible and supportive environment for victims. These goals are inseparable; we need to empower victims as much as we must denounce rape culture.
This year, for Sexual Assault Awareness Week, we encourage everyone in the Carleton community to think about their place and responsibility in fostering a positive campus culture.
It is with this in mind that we selected our quote for the campaign:
Collectivity: because everything worthwhile is done with others,”- Mariame Kaba.
Throughout the week we will display art, host a survivor support group, lead a plant potting workshop and more.
We will also host a panel discussion focused on queer survivors and resilience in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. This event further highlights the importance of Collectivity and the need for intersectionality in our efforts to end sexual violence.
We have planned events to demonstrate the power of community, and to generate conversation about what all of us can do to prevent sexual violence. It is our hope that this week will help encourage the Carleton community to be active allies and to demand better from each other.
Sexual Assault Awareness Week will demonstrate that what is ‘cowardly’ is choosing not to educate ourselves and challenge systemic rape culture.
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