Statement on Gendered and Sexual Violence at the SSMU

Statement on Gendered and Sexual Violence at the SSMU

CONTENT WARNING: The following statement addresses the issue of gendered and sexual violence, with particular reference to the shortcomings of institutions in handling complaints. We recognize that engaging in and struggling with bureaucratic reporting structures can itself result in degrees of trauma over and above dealing with experiences of sexual violence. We encourage you to take care of yourself as you choose how you want to engage with this statement. Listed at the end of this statement are Montreal-based resources including crisis centres, active listening services, and 24-hour support services both on and off-campus.

This content warning was developed with reference to the Community Disclosure Network’s statements, to whom we are grateful for leading the work of creating a safer environment at the SSMU, and whose work we hope to build on as we continue to address Gendered and Sexual Violence within our institution.

Dear SSMU members,

It has come to the attention of the SSMU Executives and Board of Directors that the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) has made a report under the Involvement Restriction Policy (IRP) concerning a member of the newly elected SSMU Executive team, set to begin their term on June 1, 2020. To say the least, the SSMU Executive and Board of Directors find these reports deeply troubling; sexual violence has absolutely no place in our Society, especially in our Executive Committee. With this in mind, we are writing to communicate key information and our next steps in this process.

In the immediate term, the SSMU has postponed the distribution of employment contracts for incoming Executives until further notice. We have reached out to the EUS to ensure that we receive all relevant information as expeditiously as it becomes available. However, due to the confidential nature of pending IRP cases, we are unable to further comment on the situation without opening all parties involved to further legal liability, until a final resolution has been reached and communicated.

The IRP is an inter-faculty agreement designed to standardize investigative procedures and disciplinary outcomes across student associations, in an effort to prevent harmful individuals from engaging with student-run events and services. This work is an attempt to better coordinate responses to sexual violence across faculties and to ensure the safety of the student community as a whole. The list of individuals who have been banned from participating in such activities is centrally held by the SSMU Anti-Violence Coordinators, who are also responsible for implementing the SSMU Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP). Moreover, the SSMU has signed an agreement with the faculty associations who use the IRP, recognizing the procedures under the IRP as a valid investigative process and as such, the SSMU is able to implement the results of an IRP investigation in the same way that we would be able to implement the recommendations following a GSVP investigation, without requiring a separate complaint or disclosure. Therefore, the SSMU will be able to restrict the respondent of an IRP investigation from participating in SSMU events and gaining non-elected employment in our Society. In the special case of SSMU Executives, the Quebec Companies Act still requires us to hold a Special General Assembly in order to remove an individual from office. However, if an Executive was recommended for removal from office by our Anti-Violence Coordinators following an investigation of allegations of gendered or sexual violence, the SSMU would take every step to limit that individual’s involvement within the Society until such a General Assembly could be held, including preventing this individual’s ability to hold employment with the Society during the monthlong incoming Executive training that takes place during May. The inability of that individual to properly exercise their duties is grounds enough for such a suspension, and such an individual may, of their own accord, understand that they are no longer fit or logistically able to carry out their role.

Reconciling our moral imperative to call out sexual violence and condemn abusers, especially those in positions of authority, with the need to comply with restrictive legal obligations, as well as with our imperfect and evolving processes, is deeply frustrating. We know this statement is not enough, and we recognize that those who suffer the most from this shortcoming are the survivors of sexual violence.

The SSMU has a responsibility to stand with survivors, amplify their voices in condemning all sexual violence and rape culture where it persists, and work towards restorative justice wherever possible. In our work preventing and responding to gendered and sexual violence, the SSMU has committed and continues to espouse a trauma-informed and survivor-centric approach. This means listening to and taking the lead from survivors in our continual improvement. It means making sure we do everything in our power to stand with survivors and ensure they are not subject to retraumatization. It means prioritizing the needs of the survivors, and accompanying them through every step of the process toward seeking proper justice. We recognize how difficult it can be to come forward with an experience of gendered or sexual violence, and we unequivocally stress the importance of standing with survivors and making sure responses to sexual violence center around their needs. This work will always be ongoing, as we continue to learn from and improve our processes.

The SSMU maintains stringent policies against gendered and sexual violence. We equally acknowledge that this remains a pervasive issue that SSMU continuously seeks to ameliorate. Moving forward, the SSMU will be undertaking a comprehensive review of our policies and governing documents to ensure that any inadequacies are corrected. The safety of our community is, and will continue to be, our absolute highest priority.

At the end of this statement, we have included a list of on-campus and community resources. Individual Executives also remain reachable, even if you just need to talk. Instances of gendered and sexual violence within our institutions will not be left unchecked. We guarantee that individuals responsible will not go unchallenged.

SSMU Executives and SSMU Board of Directors 2019-2020

RESOURCES
Community Resources
Keep.meSAFE | Through MySSP app (Mobile app, iOS and Android) (60+ languages, 24/7)
Montreal Sexual Assault Centre | 1-888-933-9007 (bilingual, 24/7)
Provincial Hotline | 514-933-9007 or 1-888-933-9007 (bilingual, 24/7)
Crisis Text Line | Text HOME to 686868 (bilingual, 24/7)
CAVAC (Crime Victim Assistance Centre): 1-866-532-2822 (bilingual)
SOS violence conjugale | 1-800-363-9010 (bilingual, 24/7)
Écoute Entraide | 514-278-2130 or toll free 1-855-365-4463 (français, 8H-00H/7)
Suicide Action Montreal | 1-866-277-3553 (bilingual, 24/7)
Tel-Aide | 514-935-1101 (bilingual, 24/7)

On-Campus Resources
Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) | main@sacomss.org
McGill Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support, and Education (OSVRSE)| 514-398-3954, osvrse@mcgill.ca
Student Wellness Hub | 514-398-6017
Office of the Dean of Students | 514-398-4990, deanofstudents@mcgill.ca
McGill Ombudsperson | 514-398-7059, ombudsperson@mcgill.ca
International Student Services (ISS) | 514-398-4349
McGill Security Services | 514-398-3000
McGill Students’ Nightline3 | 514-398-6246

1Availability of these resources may be affected by the COVID-19 crisis
2SACOMSS drop-in and phone line services are temporarily suspended until April 12, 2020 due to COVID-19
3Currently unavailable due to COVID-19 closure

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