Thursday, April 22, 2010

more education, less blaming.

There was a sexual assault last night at york university and before I write else about it I just want to say that I'm finding it a little gross the way it's being slanted as something that york university can prevent.

I've gone to four different universities throughout my academic career and at every single one of them i knew women or heard of women being assaulted on campus or in their homes. the university of Saskatchewan, Queen's university, university of Toronto, and now York university--none of these places can ever have enough "security" to stop sexual assault.

All of these universities have had several high profile assaults as well--stranger assaults(which are usually pretty rare). so, while i think the university has to become more serious about safety on campus, i don't really think it's fair to act like this only happens at York and that ANY safety precaution can stop a sexual assault. more women than we'd like to admit are sexually assaulted on campuses every single day--by their partners, their professors, classmates, and strangers.

Darshika Selvasivam, vp of campaigns and advocacy for the york federation of students is quoted as saying "sexual violence is sadly becoming an all too common event around york university's campus" and while I agree that assaults at york are becoming more visible, I think it's dangerous to say that incidences are on the rise because it ignores the multitude of women assaulted all of the time on our campus--ask any of the sexual assault crisis lines in the area, this isn't a new thing.

Focusing on the york administration as the cause of sexual assaults is not entirely productive and obfuscates the broader issues around sexual assault.

Sexual assault is an epidemic in Canada and York needs to address the culture of sexism on campus more than it needs to release the metrac report. Sexual assault is not leverage. It is not fair to say "sorry you were raped, young lady, that could have been prevented with more lighting". We need to think, "hey, maybe we need to educate ALL students about sexual assault." Maybe we shouldn't cut funding to women's studies programs, maybe we should increase education around the politics and issues behind sexual assault instead of just acting like cameras and lights are going to save the day.

I understand certain measures need to be taken, but let's not forget how widespread sexual assault is.

Consider that the "york rapist", a man who just randomly wandered into women's rooms and sexually assaulted them with no thought whatsoever, just received 8 years for his crime. 8 motherfucking years, for perpetuating a horrific crime and then acting like it was just a bit of fun and in Canada this is considered a good sentence.

In this situation, the residence in which the women lived were totally neglectful of the security precautions ALREADY in place. But also, as well as looking at yYork university we need to consider how the criminal justice system and widespread ideas and misconceptions about sexual assault lead not only to the gross under prosecuting of sexual assaults but also the joke convictions and punishments that sexual assaulters receive.

We live in a society where you can walk into a residence and go door to door raping young women and only receive 8 years time for it. So yes, York university should release metrac, it should consider safety precautions, it should be more sensitive to sexual assault survivors, but as the York university community it is our responsibility to look at the broader societal structure that allows women and men to be victims of such crimes(and you can read about how york has contributed to that HERE).

One of the victims of the York rapist is suing York university for not protecting her, and I have to say that anyone at all who thinks york needs to improve security should get behind this lawsuit. Women who have also been sexually assaulted on campus should join it and it should be come a class action law suit against York university. law suits are really the only power we have against the university and it's the one thing the university is scared of.

But also, let's not forget that sexual assault doesn't just happen because it's dark outside. We need to have open dialogues about why it happens and talk about how it happens regardless of how many security men are driving and figure out how to educate people about WHY sexual assault happens.

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