On November 11, after two years of campaigning, protesting, and petitioning, a Sexual Assault Resource Centre will finally open at Concordia University. Jennifer Drummond, a social worker and McGill graduate, will be the new centre’s coordinator, managing both volunteers and the centre’s services.
Located on the downtown campus at the Guy-Metro building, the new centre will offer “crisis intervention, advocacy, accompaniment, a resource room, referrals, volunteer opportunities and educational outreach,” according to Drummond.
She also said she hoped that the centre would “provide students, staff, and faculty a space for support, discussion and learning,” in order to create “a culture of respect and consent on campus.”
Julie Michaud, Administrative Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy, described Drummond’s approach as “very survivor-oriented,” as she “help[s] survivors take the steps that they feel are right for them, whatever those may be.”
The Centre for Gender Advocacy, which offers services and resources to the Concordia and greater Montreal community in addition to campaigning for social justice causes, is at the center of the two-year long push. Their petition received over 1,000 signatures, pushing the university into action back in April 2013.
Michaud highlighted the importance of a resource like this on campus. “Sexual assault centres should be in place at all [educational] institutions because around one in four students will experience some type of sexual assault during their post-secondary education.”
“The fact that a quarter of all students go through this is obviously very concerning, but even if the rate were lower it would still be worth addressing,” Michaud continued, adding that the definition of sexual assault is not limited only to rape, but “all unwanted sexual contact.”
Michaud says that the statistic “is hard to believe because we tend to think of sexual assault as a penetrative act that is perpetrated by a violent stranger in a dark alley.” In reality, she said, “over 80 per cent of survivors know their perpetrator, and it doesn’t have to [involve] physical violence.”
Survivors often face many other problems when dealing with sexual assault, such as skepticism and victim-blaming when deciding to share this information with friends or family. “Survivors learn quickly not to speak out” for fear of not being helped or even taken seriously, she said.
“It’s the unfortunate reality of living in a rape culture,” Michaud said, adding that it was “essentially the knowledge of [these] fact[s] that motivated [the Centre for Gender Advocacy] to campaign for the creation of the Sexual Assault Resource Centre.”
Unlike the administrative support for Concordia’s sexual assault centre, McGill has the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), a volunteer-based centre located inside the Shatner building. SACOMSS has run on student fees since the 1990s.
Michaud pointed out that there are similarities and differences between the two resources. “Like SACOMSS, the Sexual Assault Resource Centre will offer meaningful volunteer opportunities, but unlike SACOMSS, it will not put the burden of running the centre on volunteers.”
Drummond’s full-time position, according to Michaud, “will provide an important degree of reliability in the availability of service – something that can understandably be lacking in volunteer-run centres during busy times for students.”
Staff and volunteers from the Centre for Gender Advocacy will also be lending support to the Sexual Assualt Resource Centre.
“The opening of the centre is a very important step forward for Concordia, and I believe [it] will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of the entire Concordia community,” Drummond told The Daily.