Commentary | Sexual assault happens

Every person has the right to define their own boundaries

We all know sexual assault happens. Lately, there have been a lot of conversations in The Daily about sexual assault, rape culture, Frosh, and rape statistics – some conversations more controversial than others. These are important things to discuss, as not everyone agrees about the social role of rape and how it is involved in McGill culture; some students may have never thought about it.

However, these conversations cannot overshadow the fact that rape and sexual assault happen, including here at McGill, much more often than is reported or admitted. Regardless of your views on rape culture or Frosh, sexual assault is a reality. The Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) believes that the most important thing to do is to believe survivors and do our best to support them.

Each and every person has their own boundaries, sexual or otherwise; something that might be comfortable or fun for you might not be for the person sitting next to you, or your best friend. Some of us might not even be sure what we are, or where our boundaries lie. We all also have unique ways of communicating our boundaries. While one person might be totally comfortable loudly asserting their discomfort in front of a crowd, another might, very legitimately, prefer to whisper their discomfort to a friend under their breath. Someone else might choose another approach entirely. Just as everyone’s unique boundaries are worthy of respect, all methods of communicating those boundaries are also equally valid.

SACOMSS defines sexual assault as any unwanted act of a sexual nature. We use this definition because under it survivors of sexual assault have the ability to define their own experiences. Each person is able to define for themselves when and how their boundaries have been crossed, or when they have felt uncomfortable.

As a community, we need to respect each other’s unique boundaries, and believe people when they express feeling that those boundaries have been violated. Everyone has a right to feel uncomfortable or vulnerable for whatever reason, and no one else has the right to define that experience for someone else. Support and respect depend on believing people in their own experiences, no matter your thoughts on Frosh or rape culture.

Claudia Alexander (“Healing Holistically,” Features, September 19, pages 8-9) powerfully discussed her experience healing holistically from her own sexual assault. Holistic healing is personal, dependant on each individual’s needs. This exemplifies the mandate of SACOMSS. We are a non-judgemental, non-directional organization, who provides support services for survivors, as they see fit. We believe that every person has the right to define their own experiences, to be believed and supported. We also believe that in order for university to be a fun, healthy environment for all of us, it is important for us to respect each other’s needs and abilities to set our own boundaries. We do not need to dismiss people when they express feelings of discomfort or vulnerability about something we don’t think is a big deal; instead, we can believe and support them with the respect they deserve.

You can find out more information about SACOMSS, our services, and our hours at, or by emailing The phone number for the support line is 514-398-8500.

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