By Paul Moore
A task force is set to continue the dialogue on gender-based violence at Carleton University.
The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre in conjunction with the Womyn’s Centre and Carleton’s Graduate Student Association have joined to host the forum. The dialogue is happening in the atrium at the University Centre and will include guest speakers, as well as conversation with concerned Carleton students.
This, after a Carleton student was sexually assaulted on campus three years ago.
“Your voices will be heard,” promised Julie Lalond as the task force concluded.
Kimalee Phillip, President of Carleton’s Graduate Student Association:
“This is not an attack against [Carleton’s president] Dr. Runte. This is not a personal attack. It’s an attack against the administration, the ideology that Carleton perpetuates that violence against women is not a big deal,” said
“No one person is responsible,” agreed professor Patricia Gentile. “That’s the point of this town hall”
Panel member Donnie Northrup: “I’d like to do an informal survey. If you yourself or one of your friends has been sexually assaulted, raise your hand.”
The vast majority of hands go up.
One student told the story of being sexually assaulted abroad, then returning to Carleton.
Another, how she was assaulted five years ago and then, recently, was at a house party where a group of women had been assaulted, their breasts written on by men.
“It baffles me that Carleton’s president is unwilling to recognize that this is a reality,” said another woman.
The task force was scheduled to conclude right now.
There are still two people lined up behind the microphone.
Personal stories of the trauma related to sexual assault continue.
Audience members continue to filter in and out of the stage area. But, still, all the chairs are full and many people continue to stand and listen nearby.
Plenty of red, teary eyes – both of men and women – in the audience as a woman describes her experience being “sexually assaulted – violently.”
“I had to drop out [of Algonquin College] because I couldn’t face the trauma of going back. This is the first time I’ve talked about it,” she said.
Discussion continues. More stories from people who have been sexually assaulted.
One student brings up the difficulties students may face in disclosing the assault to professors in order to receive extensions on their academic work. She spoke about her experience as a TA, working with a student who had been assaulted:
“She was expected to tell a bunch of 60-year old men what had happened to her.”
The coalition is now accepting written submissions from anyone who felt uncomfortable speaking publicly.
Lalonde notes that a representative from Carleton administration has now left the forum area (I must have missed them earlier.)
A Carleton music student describes her experience with sexual assault. The Kingston native said she had been assaulted twice and even attempted suicide. She said she knew about the push for a sexual assault centre before coming to the school and was “mortified” to learn that there was resistance to it.
Audience members continue to air their grievances with the lack of a sexual assault centre.
One point of contention – whether the centre could (or should) be housed in the Womyn’s centre.
The panel discussion agreed that this was an inappropriate option as, as Julie Lalonde said, “sexual assault is not just a women’s problem”
Nearly an hour into the discussion, chairs are still full and at least 20 people are crowding around the forum or standing and listening nearby.
Perhaps some of the 97 ‘confirmed guests’ on the group’s facebook site.
Kimalee Phillip, President of Carleton’s Graduate Student Association:
“The sort of responses that we’ve been getting from the administration is horrendous. I am almost embarrassed to say that I am from Carleton University sometimes.”
“For the president of our university to have her legal counsel … blame the student for not making enough of an effort to protect herself is despicable, it’s misogynistic. And I’m embarrassed.”
“We are not here to make students feel good. We are not here to bake them cookies … we are asking for you to respect the demands from our students.”
“Hello, wake up and open your eyes … I think it’s about high time that the administration pulls up their socks and build us a sexual assault centre … it’s time that we start getting some action done.”
Still haven’t seen anyone from Carleton’s administration.
Now, discussion of resistance to having a sexual assault centre:
-Lack of space
“We are not offering counselling. But we are offering peer support. We’re not going to be assessing, we’re not going to be labelling, we’re not going to be curing … We will be a helpful ear.”
“We want to have an open space where we will have workshops, discussions, 365 days a year … it’s a space where it will be open like any other service on campus … men, women, you will be welcome in the sexual assault support centre.”
“Carleton is poor. Everyone is poor. But rape still happens in tough economic times. So, if you can spend 1.6 million dollars on cameras and emergency assistance phones, then give us a space, a couple of people, and we can make this happen.”
Patricia Gentile argues that Carleton needs more counselling services to supplement the school’s medical services.
“This is a war. We need everybody on deck … Put all the lighting up you want, big football lights, I don’t care. We need counsellors.”
The open-mic comments begin.
Heather: “It’s not about saying Carleton is unsafe. It’s about saying society is unsafe and that we need to be able to talk about it … People are experiencing sexual assaults not just on campus, but in their lives … and so to have a sexual assault centre is saying that Carleton is committed to supporting its students and trying to make society safer.”
Unidentified Student: “I am one of those women who has been raped. It happened last April. It was off-campus, but it was a friend that I met at Carleton … while Carleton’s medical staff were fantastic, we need a sexual assault centre on campus.”
“There is no space for violence, for homophobia, for racism in an educational institution. It is up to us to make sure that is actually the case,” said Patricia Gentile, a Carleton Women’s Studies professor.
She argued that, as an educator, she often hears from women, telling her their stories of violence.
“All these unreported cases – it’s horrendous.”
“Let’s show the world and let’s show Canada – violence is not okay.”
Donnie Northrup, coordinator for Foot Patrol, said “we need to overhaul the system and make sure people who need extra resources have them.”
Standing room only. All chairs are full. A mix of men and women, most look to be students.
Further comments from representatives of the Womyn’s Centre and the campus’ Foot Patrol.
Julie Lalonde, co-founder of the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre will speak about women and sexual assault, as representative of the coalition. She said the sexual assaults on campus often go unreported, so action is necessary. She referenced the University of Alberta, a school that does have a sexual assault centre, arguing that the precedent has been established.
Task force begins.
Still waiting for the task force to begin and students are beginning to arrive.
I just talked to Kimalee Phillip, President of Carleton’s Graduate Student Association. She made reference to tensions between the school’s administration and student groups concerning the establishment of a sexual assault centre on campus. Phillip said this task force is, in part, a way of getting the attention of the school’s administration.
“We’ve been thinking of other strategies of getting students aware of what is happening on campus and how they can assist . . . . We’re hoping to gather some data and anecdotal evidence here today and submit that to the administration,” she said.
Organizers are currently busy setting up chairs, testing microphones and making last-minute preparations for the event.
The forum begins at 11 a.m. and is scheduled to continue until 1:00 pm.