A young woman visibly fought back tears as she told a crowd of people about how she was sexually assaulted last April.
“I am one of those women who has been raped,” she said. “It was off-campus, but it was a friend that I met at Carleton [University].”
She was the first of many women and men to voice their concerns and tell their stories of sexual assault at a forum at the university Wednesday.
For nearly two and a half hours, people filled the 40 chairs organizers put up at the university centre, while as many as 20 people stood crowding the stage.
The task force was organized by the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre, along with the Womyn’s Centre and the Graduate Students’ Association on campus.
The groups have been lobbying Carleton’s administration to establish a sexual assault centre since a student at the university was assaulted on campus in 2007.
Many audience members used tissues to dab at their red, teary eyes as a woman described 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 as the crowd rose to their feet applauding in a warm show of support.
Another told the crowd how she was assaulted five years ago and then, recently, was at a house party where a group of men assaulted women by writing on their breasts.
One after another, students came to the microphone to share their experiences and their discontent with Carleton’s reluctance to establish a sexual assault centre.
A music student said she was assaulted twice and has even attempted suicide. She said she knew about the push for a sexual assault centre before coming to the university and was “mortified” to learn the administration was resisting it.
Many people who spoke were highly critical of Carleton’s administration.
“It baffles me that Carleton’s president is unwilling to recognize that this is a reality,” said one woman.
Kimalee Phillip, President of Carleton’s Graduate Student Association, accused the university of failing to meet students’ needs.
“I am almost embarrassed to say that I am from Carleton University sometimes,” she said.
“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.”
“This is not an attack against [Carleton’s President Roseann O’Reilly] 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.”
The group plans to submit the results of the task force to Carleton’s administration.
No one from the university spoke at the event.
Hartwells policy is to not identify sexual assault victims by name.
<em>Hartwells has also published a liveblog of the sexual assault forum.</em>