Rape Culture on Campus and SSMU Advocacy

Rape Culture on Campus and SSMU Advocacy

Rape Culture on Campus and SSMU Advocacy

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.

To learn more about what the SSMU is doing to confront and dismantle rape culture, click here.

It may not come as a surprise that rape culture is not just a problem in the wider world but also on our own campus. A report released by McGill in 2018 found that 40% of students had experienced sexual harassment at McGill. This harassment most often takes place across campus, at parties or social events, in the classroom, and in virtual environments. In a 2017 survey of McGill students, 22.4% reported experiencing sexual assault during their time at McGill. The survey found that many of the incidents of sexual harassment and assault involved alcohol consumption.

McGill has a Policy Against Sexual Violence to address rape culture at McGill and specific incidents of sexual assault through education initiatives; the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education; and complaints procedures. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

The Publication of OurTurn

In the fall of 2017, the SSMU worked with students from Carleton University to publish the OurTurn National Action Plan. 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. The Plan 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. The SSMU is proud to continue working with OurTurn and implement the action plan’s recommendations on campus. If you are interested in being a part of anti-sexual violence advocacy work at McGill please contact the SSMU VP (External Affairs) and VP (University Affairs) at external@ssmu.ca and ua@ssmu.ca.

Advocacy Surrounding the McGill Policy Against Sexual Violence

In April and December of 2017 respectively, the Adhoc Panel to Conduct a Campus Study of Sexual Violence [SSMU representative: then-VP (University Affairs), Isabelle Oke] and the Committee for the Implementation of the Policy Against Sexual Violence [SSMU representative: then-VP (External Affairs), Connor Spencer ] were struck. For the full mandate, composition, and timeline of each committee, please follow the links above! These two committees reported back to the Provost, Dr. Christopher Manfredi, at the end of the Winter 2018 semester.

Future work was largely guided by the results and recommendations from these reports such that, in the Winter 2019 semester, McGill University’s Policy Against Sexual Violence was updated. Among other changes, this version incorporates the new Special Investigator reporting structure and, thanks to extensive student advocacy, a ban on intimate relationships between teaching staff and students where the member of teaching staff holds academic authority over the student. In addition, the Procedures for the Investigation of Reports of Sexual Violence was passed in conjunction with the Policy amendments. Moving forward, the University will continue to convene meetings of a Working Group and the Implementation Committee of the Policy Against Sexual Violence.

Motion to Acknowledge and Respond to Rape Culture within the SSMU and on McGill’s Campus

On October 12, 2017, the SSMU Legislative Council unanimously passed a motion to acknowledge rape culture at McGill and the SSMU. The text of the motion can be found through this link. This motion was the first step towards the SSMU developing a holistic and survivor-centric response to sexual violence on campus and initiated the creation of the McGill OurTurn Taskforce.

SSMU Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy

In response to the harm perpetrated by members of the SSMU Executive in 2017, the SSMU sought to produce its own gendered and sexual violence policy. In January of 2018, funding from SACOMSS was used to hire Caitlin Salvino as the Sexual Violence Policy Project Coordinator and two Sexual Violence Policy Project Advisors: Bee Khaleeli and Priya Dube. They worked to develop a holistic, survivor-centric policy over the course of the semester, conducting general and closed consultations with the SSMU membership and stakeholders. The final draft of the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy was presented to the SSMU Legislative Council in September 2018, and the Project Team’s final report can be accessed here.