Around a year ago, I was sexually assaulted by a McGill student. Since then, this student has been reprimanded by the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) and has been prohibited from holding any official leadership roles in the Faculty of Arts. However, there is a gap between the AUS and the rest of the McGill community. The gap, specific to my case, between the Faculty of Arts and fraternities on campus reveals that there are loopholes and grey zones prevalent within the university community making the day-to-day much more difficult for survivors on campus.
A few weeks ago, an account that I follow on Instagram that provides workshops on consent to McGill’s fraternities posted a picture of my assaulter’s fraternity. The irony of associating someone who so blatantly disregarded my consent as the face of a pro-consent workshop was not lost on me. The final nail in the coffin for me, however, was learning, through this, that my personal account had been blocked from this fraternity’s Instagram page, despite the fact that I had had no interactions with anyone from the fraternity other than my assaulter. While being blocked in itself is not particularly harmful, the fact that I was blacklisted for speaking out against a man who sexually assaulted me and who has the potential to violate others as he did me is harmful.
This form of censorship brings up a systemic issue that I find most disturbing: the gaps in policies governing Greek Life at McGill University enable those involved to silence survivors, avoid accountability, and, potentially, put others at risk. Although fraternities and sororities on campus are governed by a constitution, this policy has no measures to ensure that sexual violence is a disqualifier when occupying leadership positions within these organizations. Further, there are no outlines for responsibly responding to allegations of sexual violence. Policies like these, and their separation from other university policies aimed at curtailing sexual violence, leave survivors to continue to be mistreated by their perpetrators. This is made worse by the fact that perpetrators may continue to be campus leaders by choosing to work with organizations that are left untouched by the governing body they were investigated by.
This form of censorship brings up a systemic issue that I find most disturbing: the gaps in policies governing Greek Life at McGill University enable those involved to silence survivors, avoid accountability, and, potentially, put others at risk.
I chose to go through the relevant process within the Faculty of Arts in order to disclose my experience and protect myself on campus. Yet, my assaulter continues to be a prevalent figure on campus. It is important that McGill now has a Policy Against Sexual Violence and it is important that many other faculties, services, and organizations at McGill develop their own policies and processes for responding to sexual violence. However, this has illuminated yet another way in which making a report as a survivor becomes more work than it often seems worth. For a survivor to avoid their aggressor to the extent that would ensure their safety and comfort on campus, they would have to file several reports and take on the burden of mapping out every separate jurisdiction existing at McGill. Further, as it is written now, my ability to seek recourse with the Fraternity itself seems low. Impeachment of an executive is decided on by fellow executives. There is little reason for me to believe that, as an outsider, my word and experience would be understood and considered important by those that are incentivized to protect their own. As sexual violence policies continue to develop, and as changes are made to them after witnessing the ways in which they impact the experiences of survivors, what I believe will become more and more apparent is the need to bridge them in ways that leave fewer holes and fractures that benefit perpetrators.
For a survivor to avoid their aggressor to the extent that would ensure their safety and comfort on campus, they would have to file several reports and take on the burden of mapping out every separate jurisdiction existing at McGill.
This is not merely a complaint based on stereotypes or reputations of these types of Greek Life organizations, but on the experiences of myself and other survivors at McGill University who continue to watch their perpetrators hold important positions in highly visible organizations on campus. The man who assaulted me holds an executive position in his fraternity, giving him additional power over other potential victims, as well as the ability to blacklist them from his fraternity’s social media. Though the exposure of such an abuse of power is a cultural shift that has likely vastly improved the lives and conditions of survivors, there has not yet been enough work to prevent these abuses of power in the first place. One of those preventative measures includes exposing the frameworks that allow them to occur and considering sexual violence as one would other acts that ought to threaten one’s position in an organization. What is exposed by my experience is the need not only for organizational structures to support survivors but for this support to take the shape of a cohesive network rather than a segmented web to be navigated by someone only in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and are seeking support or resources, the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) recommends contacting the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre at +1 888-933-9007, Tel-Aide at 514-935-1101, or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 686868, as SACOMSS has suspended drop-in and phone line services until further notice due to COVID-19. SACOMSS can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns.
Additionally, the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE) at McGill is maintaining reduced services by phone or virtually for McGill members, whether in Montreal, across Canada, or abroad. To request assistance and inquire about adapted services, you can contact them by email or by phone at 514-398-3954. Please allow for a 24hr response time during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm). Drop-in hours, group activities, and volunteering activities are suspended until further notice.