By: Frances Anderson

Article contains mentions of sexual assault

People are quick to believe that Canadian citizens are much more respectful than Americans, but this ceases to be true when it comes to sexual assault on university campuses.

McMaster released a new sexual violence policy on Jan. 1, 2017, but why should that concern any of McMaster’s students when Canadian universities are not required to go public with the amount of sexual assaults that occur on the university’s campus? We do not know how much of an influence the policy has had, will have, or the full extent of what it is locally based on.

According to a study done by BMC Women’s Health, more than one in every four women has been assaulted at Canadian universities. In comparison, in the United States, who announce assaults when they occur, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network states that 23.1 per cent of women have been sexually assaulted on a university campus. Additionally, the film called The Hunting Ground claims that one in five American students from a university are sexually assaulted. Not only are the statistics for rape and sexual assault while in college or university shocking, but the Canadian statistics are slightly worse than the American statistics.

In the United States, the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act forbids any kind of discrimination based off of sex in any educational institution that is federally funded. This federal law is used to protest poor handling processes of sexual assault cases since it is more commonly an issue for women than it is for men. Unfortunately, Canada does not have this law in place. This means that the future of the victim remains solely the responsibility of the university and their administrators.

Another observation that has been made is at the beginning of a school year, there tends to be some awareness of sexual assault prevention with things such as “#consent” posters around McMaster. By the start of the second semester, there are no more posters within sight. A paper in the Journal of American College Health mentions a period of time called the red zone, which is at the start to a term of a first and second year university student. This red zone is the time when a student is most likely to be assaulted. Since assaults happen all year round and not just at the beginning of the first term, the posters should not be taken down as they were a reminder for people to ask for consent. The conversations about sexual assault should not end when the red zone does.

Although we cannot instantaneously get rid of sexual assault for good, there are many ways that people can help to change the frightening statistics. Universities need to spread more awareness of the issue so students can take the proper safety precautions to prevent any incidents or to change their behaviours toward sex and can effectively know how to ask for consent. More Canadian statistics on the issue need to be put out through academic resources so that Canadian citizens are able to do their research and see how safe or unsafe they truly are. Lastly, it would be helpful if Canada took a second look into reporting the amount of assaults that occur on university campuses, so that students would realize that they are not as safe as they think and ultimately become more inclined to participate in life-saving programs.

If you are a student or a person who knows a post-secondary student, it is time to start a conversation about how we as Canadian students are not as safe as we always think.

Resources on campus

Equity and Inclusion Office 

Provides confidential complaint resolution according to the University’s Sexual Harassment Policies.

MUSC Room 212

(905) 525-9140 x. 27581ter.ca

Megan Ross

Sexual Violence Response Coordinator

(905) 525-9140 x. 20909

rossm4@mcmaster.ca

SHEC

Provides confidential peer support, referrals on and off campus, anonymous and confidential pregnancy testing.

(905) 525-9140 x. 22041

shec@msu.mcmaster.ca

Student Wellness Centre 

Provides a wide range of counselling options and medical services and testing.

(905) 525-9140 x. 27700

wellness@mcmaster.ca

WGEN

Provides confidential support for all victims of sexual assault

(905) 525-9140 x. 20265

wgen@msu.mcmaster.ca

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