By: Moleen Makumborenga
Conditions on campuses promote sexual violence. You have the dangerous concoction of heedless youth, easily accessible alcohol, a search for the psychological and social affirmation that sex brings and blurry sexual assault laws.
It is tragic for something to happen to you and to know that you were not fully comfortable or conscious when it happened, to show doubt during intimate interactions and to have to bear the post traumatic stress associated with your experience because the law is not encompassing of the broad scope of sexual and emotional abuse in intimate relations.
It is infuriating to be muzzled into silence about your experiences because you have made the saddening realization that no one will be in your corner. This is to say that the status quo of sexual politics deems that women in short dresses, long dresses, drunk women and women walking home alone at night are at fault.
“Slut walks” were born to refute that miseducation. Slut walks, which began in Toronto, were in opposition of a senior police officer who suggested that if women want to stop getting raped, they should stop dressing like “sluts.”
The movement gained international momentum when Emma Sulkowicz, a 2014 Columbia University graduate, centered her senior thesis around a 2012 sexual assault incident against her. Emma walked around campus with her mattress in protest of her university’s inaction against her alleged rapist. She vowed she would only stop when the university had expelled him or he chose to withdraw from the school. In the case of Emma, and in many cases with sexual assault survivors, there was not enough evidence for the university to proceed with disciplinary action against her and two other girls who filed complaints against the same student.
This led to the infamous hashtag #RapeHoax, which saw Emma victim blamed into familiar silence known to rape victims.
Fast forward to 2016. BuzzFeed has published 10 videos on the varied types of sexual assault and a polarizing Stanford rape case took over the news. The University of British Columbia was also shaken to its ethical core by several allegations that it ignored complaints against a history PhD student who was found to be committing offensive sexual acts against up to six women.
It made me ask what McMaster is doing about sexual violence. I have seen red emergency phones all over campus with security officers patrolling in tow and I have noticed numerous posters on many of the schools’ message boards about the seriousness of affirmative consent. The quote, “Yesterday’s
consent is not today’s consent to sex” stuck out to me in particular.
To my surprise, I also discovered McMaster’s sexual violence support website, and it is pretty damn good. Listing in a clear and concise manner where to get support on campus and how to give support, it is the best web portal about sexual violence you did not know about.
Even though I am happy with my findings, I still have this anxiety that transcends university spaces. When I leave the campus umbrella, the actual problem still persists.
At the very core of it, we need to disassemble not only how men see women, but also how women view themselves as sexual beings. The majority of sexual assaults are not reported ultimately because our society makes it so women do not trust themselves. Outside of intimate spaces, women are often conditioned to believe that their emotions and experiences are not legitimate.
It is often the case than when women report incidents of sexual assault, they are asked, “Are you sure you were raped?” What becomes imperative is that we create a society that makes it so women can trust that they will be understood for their explanations of the various facets of sexual assault.