Bianca Mugyenyi, Campaigns Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy
Since the spring of 2011, the Centre for Gender Advocacy, its volunteers, and Concordia students have been calling for the creation of a Sexual Assault Resource Centre. With 1 in 4 students sexually assaulted during the course of their post-secondary education—over 80% of survivors being women—this is a much-needed service.
The campaign began with a petition of over 1,000 students and an endorsement by the undergraduate and graduate student unions, and was made visible on campus with posters, stickers, and banners highlighting the need for services. With no centre in place, the campaign decided to offer materials and workshops on the nature and importance of consent. In addition to popular education, the campaign included the organizing of a “Take Back the Night” march and a powerful public forum where Concordia community members disclosed their personal experiences of abuse and sexual assault. The campaign gained tremendous momentum and support from students and student media.
Finally, after two years of campaigning by the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Concordia University announced it is establishing a Sexual Assault Resource Centre this fall. This is a victory for the entire Concordia community. It is our hope that this integral service will be accessible to people of all genders and backgrounds and will contribute to a broader cross-campus anti-violence movement that challenges society’s “rape culture,” which excuses and normalizes sexual assault and violence.
The Sexual Assault Resource Centre will provide free confidential services to students, staff, and faculty. The Centre will be staffed by a social worker who will provide counseling and coordinate activities along with student volunteers who will offer peer support, community outreach, and education initiatives.
The Sexual Assault Resource Centre will provide a structure within which student volunteers can organize anti-sexual assault initiatives such as consent workshops and poster campaigns. This type of popular education can help prevent assaults from happening in the first place, by helping everyone understand what consent is and isn’t. It is our hope that the Sexual Assault Resource Centre will make it clear that placing the onus on survivors to prevent their own sexual assaults is unacceptable.
And when assaults do happen, staff and/or volunteers at the Centre will be there to offer support to survivors. They will also be able to help survivors navigate Concordia’s policies as they relate to sexual assault and advocate for improvements to those policies. The creation of sexual assault centres is key in ensuring equal access to post-secondary education. We can’t learn and develop to our full potential in an unsafe environment and it is our hope that centres like these will open at universities across Canada.
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