If you have experienced sexual violence, either on or off campus or prior to attending McGill, please know that it is not your fault and that you are believed and supported. The Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) has historically in many cases failed to properly support survivors of sexual violence and hold their members and employees accountable for harm perpetrated. However, the current executive is seeking to take meaningful steps to shift the internal culture of SSMU while simultaneously working with campus stakeholders to prevent sexual violence and support survivors on McGill’s campus.
Below you will find a list of information and resources on campus sexual violence and McGill specific, as well as community, resources available. In the following text we will refer to individuals who experience sexual violence as survivors, however we understand that not everyone chooses to self-identify as such and that any and all language chosen by someone to define/label their experience of sexual violence, abuse, assault, harm and trauma is a valid and an important individual choice.
We have also sought to include information on all the steps SSMU is taking to be proactive in sexual violence prevention and support on McGill’s campus, in Quebec and across Canada.
1) What is Sexual Violence? Understanding and Recognizing Experiences of Harm
2) Responses to Sexual Violence and How You May Be Feeling
3) The Intersectionality of Sexual Violence
4) Rape Culture on McGill Campus
5) Getting Support
6) Accommodation Options
7) Formal Complaint Options
8) SSMU Sexual Violence Prevention, Support and Advocacy Initiatives
Often, individuals who experience harm have difficulty recognizing that their experiences are that of sexual violence. In many cases, due to rape culture and the normalization of sexual violence, unless an experience constitutes a severe form of assault, individuals struggle to acknowledge their experiences and seek support. It is important to understand that sexual violence is a broad category that constitutes a range of harms. It is never your fault.
According to the OurTurn National Action Plan, under the broadest of categories, sexual violence is defined as:
“…Any sexual act or act targeting an individual’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against an individual without that individual’s consent.”
Anyone can experience sexual violence, regardless of gender identity, and each survivors response to harm is individual. There is no expected way that a survivor should act. Response to sexual violence may be immediate or may take several months. It can impact certain specific areas of your life or be completely overwhelming. Just know that any response you have is normal and your experiences are valid. Healing is not often linear and each survivors journey is unique.
At SSMU, we believe that any and all discussions surrounding sexual violence must take an intersectional approach that recognizes the reality that individuals from certain marginalized groups experience sexual violence at higher rates and differently than those from more privileged communities.
Specifically, it is crucial to recognize that individuals who experience various forms of marginalization —that include but are not limited to women, trans and gender nonconforming people, queer people, people of colour and racialized people, Indigenous Peoples, people with lower socioeconomic status, and people living with disabilities—are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence.
Rape culture is defined by the Government of Ontario as “[a] culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing […] sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse”. Rape culture creates a climate in which we accept that our policies, practices, law enforcement, and courts do not respond well to the problem of sexual violence. Furthermore, it facilitates the high rates of sexual violence across university and college campuses.
Although the McGill Policy Against Sexual Violence does not mention or acknowledge rape culture on campus or the need to address it, this year SSMU has decided to actively engage with the issue. This began with the publishing of the OurTurn National Action Plan, a report that includes concrete steps to acknowledge and address rape culture on campus through prevention and support programs. Subsequently, the SSMU Legislative Council unanimously passed a motion to acknowledge and address rape culture at SSMU and on the McGill campus (link).Finally, as a result of this motion in the upcoming semester, SSMU, working alongside the faculty associations and other stakeholders, will be creating an OurTurn McGill taskforce to support student-led responses to campus sexual violence.
If you or someone you care about experiences sexual violence, know that you are not alone. There is no expected or required response to trauma. Some survivors feel grief, anger or nothing at all. For some survivors it takes them several months or years to even identify their experiences as sexual violence. Regardless of your experiences or response(s), there are free and survivor-centric support options available for you, if this is something you would like to access.
At McGill and in the Montreal community there are peer to peer, student and institutional support resources for you. Sexual violence is a specific form of harm that often requires support from specialized professionals who are trained in responding to trauma and gender-based violence. Accessing resources is completely at the discretion of the survivor and their needs. The support resources below are confidential, non-judgemental and trauma-informed and are able to work with survivors of sexual violence as they process their experience and seek healing. They can be accessed at any point regardless of when the incident(s) occurred and are free of charge.
Please note, if at any point you or someone who care about is in danger or harming themselves or others – seek emergency professional support by calling 9-11. If you prefer not to contact law enforcement officials, you can be connected with professional crisis support at:
More information can be found through this link.
As mentioned earlier, after experiencing sexual violence, you may experience difficulties in other areas of your life, including your personal, professional and academic abilities. Once again, often this is normal and it is not your fault. As a survivor you have the ability, and right, to access academic, housing and professional accommodations. It is important to note that you do not have to file a formal complaint with the police or McGill to access these accommodations.
Possible accommodations include:
It is important to note that you are not required to file a report in order to access accommodations!
If you would like support in accessing accommodations please contact:
If you have any difficulty accessing academic or housing accommodations, or feel that your needs are not being met please contact the SSMU Vice-President University Affairs Isabelle Oke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A survivor-centred approach requires all those who engage in sexual violence prevention and support programming prioritize the rights, needs, and wishes of the survivor. This means respecting your wishes. Pursuing a formal complaint after experiencing sexual violence is your right and more importantly completely your choice. After experiencing sexual violence, as a member of McGill’s community, you have two formal complaint options: the criminal justice system and the University policy framework. Click the link below for more information:
In the Fall, working with students from Carleton University, SSMU published the OurTurn National Action Plan (English and Français). The OurTurn National Action Plan is a bilingual, adaptable, action plan to end campus sexual violence through evidence-based programs and effective action. The publication was signed by 20 student unions from 8 provinces representing 500,000 students and provides them with the tools they need to prevent sexual violence. This includes creating awareness and education campaigns, supporting survivors on their campuses, and lobbying for reforms at the campus, provincial and federal levels. SSMU is proud to continue working with OurTurn and implement the action plan’s recommendations on campus. In the upcoming winter semester SSMU will be creating an OurTurn McGill taskforce. If you are interested in being a part of this task force please contact SSMU VP External Connor Spencer at email@example.com.
In April and December of 2017 respectively, the Adhoc Panel to Conduct a Campus Study of Sexual Violence and the Committee for the Implementation of the Policy Against Sexual Violence were struck. These two committees have mandates to report back to the provost, Dr. Christopher Manfredi, by the end of the Winter 2018 semester. Much of the future work around the McGill Policy Against Sexual Violence will be guided by the results and recommendations from these reports. The SSMU representative sitting on the Adhoc Panel is the VP University Affairs, Isabelle Oke, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , and the SSMU representative sitting on the Implementation committee is the VP External Affairs, Connor Spencer, who can be reached at email@example.com. For the full mandate, composition, and timeline of each committee, please follow the links above!
On October 12, 2017, the SSMU Legislative Council unanimously passed a motion to acknowledge rape culture at McGill and SSMU. The text of the motion can be found through this link. This motion was the first step towards SSMU developing a holistic and survivor-centric response to sexual violence on campus and initiated the creation of the McGill OurTurn Taskforce.
In response to the harm perpetrated by members of the SSMU executive last year and actions by the Community Disclosure Network, on January 8th, 2017 SSMU working alongside SACOMSS hired Caitlin Salvino as the Sexual Violence Policy Project Coordinator and two Sexual Violence Policy Project Advisors: Bee Khaleeli and Priya Dube. They will be developing a SSMU Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy, to create alternative forms of accountability for all members of SSMU. In the development of the voices of grassroots communities and survivors is central. Several general, individual and closed consultations will be held over the next semester to ensure those developing the policy listen to those that are most impacted. If you would like to contact the project coordinator please email Caitlin Salvino at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to provide anonymous feedback please complete the SSMU GSVP Anonymous Feedback Form. If you would like to read the minutes for an Open Forum held in Fall 2017 on the GSVP project, you can find them here.