By: Elizabeth Iwunwa
Sexual assault can be defined as a physical attack of a sexual nature that violates the consent of the victim. It may be accompanied by remarks and gestures. In a study published by CBC, the number of students on Canadian campuses affected by this menace amounted to seven hundred and seventy-seven reported cases. In our UPEI community, there have been two reported cases in the past. Reports indicate that many of such cases go largely unreported, as only about seven percent of sexual assault cases are reported to authorities.
In light of these frightening facts, Thane Bernard in conjunction with the UPEI Campus Life, the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), and the UPEI Rainbow Alliance, is putting on a Take Back The Night event. It is a global campaign aimed at helping to end rape and sexual violence. It comprises a march and a candlelight vigil which begins at the entrance of University Avenue at seven in the evening, and ends with a speech at McMillan Hall on the seventeenth of November.
Bernard is of the opinion that although there are good programs here at UPEI regarding sexual violence, they remain relatively unknown. He regards the recent posters put up by the UPEISU as a “great first step”. Nova Arsenault, leader of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) had a chance to sit in on an interview with the Cadre. He thinks that the existing programs put a lot of the onus on the victim involved. He says that having a march and speeches shows that there is a community that exists on campus that is willing to help.
At the march, flyers and pamphlets will be distributed as a means of approaching publicity differently. Although the RSM is not a ratified society, it intends to make connections with other groups and organizations on campus to forge a way forward. Arsenault said, “a big part of communist theory and practice is proliteriat feminism. So that’s addressing issues that affect working class women and other gender-oppressed individuals. Sexual assault is a big problem for the working class generally”.
More and more data has emerged from research regarding sexual violence that indicate that males can be victims too. Although they might not readily come forward and identify as victims, there is still a lot of work to be done. Programs available to female victims should be equally accessible to male victims of sexual assault as well. This event aims to reach out to all genders and totally dismantle the stereotypical idea that males are always the perpetrators and females are always the victims. So far, there has been massive support for this initiative as there hasn’t been a Take Back The Night event since 2009, when the Rape and Sexual Assault Centre put one on.
Sexual violence transcends physical violence into mental violence. It is traumatizing and almost impossible to forget. If left unreported and untreated, it could lead to downward spirals. Depression, suicide, and anxiety are just a number of ways in which victims can be affected.
As students of UPEI and members of the community, we owe it to ourselves and one another to be our brother or sister’s keeper. Learning to become active bystanders can make a huge difference. The bone-chilling story of Kitty Genovese’s murder, in which dozens of people heard her screaming for help and yet did not lift a finger, shows us that getting in someone’s business sometimes can save a life. Assault can happen at any given time or place. If you see something, say something.