Sexual assault is a crime and has no place in our communities. The recent reports of sexual violence at Western University confirm what we already knew: sexual violence is endemic on post-secondary school campuses and a culture shift is long overdue.
In an Ontario-wide Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey (2019), a third of students reported being sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months and 71% had experienced sexual harassment. Post-secondary students, especially those in their first year, are uniquely vulnerable to sexual violence.
The recent events have also reignited discussions about drug and alcohol-facilitated sexual assault and its intersection with consent. Myths about consent remain common, and the legal definition of consent is even more misunderstood. A few basic points on consent bear repeating. Consent
- should never be assumed or implied;
- is not silence or the absence of “no”;
- cannot be given if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs, or unconscious;
- can never be obtained through threats or coercion;
- can be withdrawn at any time;
- cannot be given if the perpetrator abuses a position of trust, power or authority; and
- cannot be given by anyone other than the person participating in the sexual activity.
Educational institutions have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students. Increasing security, investing in training, and changing policies surrounding the response to sexual violence is a step in the right direction. However, it does not undo the harm already inflicted and may be cold comfort to some survivors.
We understand that each journey of trauma and healing is unique. For some, the civil and criminal court systems can provide a path towards justice and accountability. For others, healing happens outside the courtroom, with medical professionals, counsellors, and loved ones. Many find strength and solidarity in community – as was done with the walk-out march last Friday.
At Beckett, we stand with survivors. To all survivors, we encourage you to make the choice that feels right. We will be here, if and when you need us.
If you have been impacted by sexual or gender-based violence, supports are available.
- Anova’s 24/7 Crisis and Support Line: 519-642-3000
- London Abused Women’s Helpline: 519-642-3000
- Beckett’s line for a free legal consultation: 519-673-4994
Published on September 23, 2021