Eight Measures Against University of Ottawa’s Burgeoning Rape Culture

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Mar 10, 2014

A student member of the University of Ottawa’s board of governors says the university’s response to recent reports of sexual violence and other attacks against women is not enough.

Anaïs Elboujdaini, a political science student who also spearheads the Independent Initiative Against Rape Culture, proposes eight measures against the burgeoning rape culture on campus and in society.

The measures include “immediate up-to-implement mandatory training, in the form of credit courses for all members of the university community regarding discrimination and sexual harassment (including a section on rape culture) as prescribed under the Ontario Act” and “the organization of a day of public debate and open to the entire university community on the issue of rape culture.”

“In light of the events that have recently been made public at the University of Ottawa, we can no longer afford to remain silent,” Elboujdaini writes on her blog. “We owe it to ourselves to break the silence.”

Four male members of the university’s student union resigned after a Facebook chat in which they targeted Anne-Marie Roy, the President of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), went public. They allegedly referenced the sexual activities they hoped to engage in with her, including anal and oral sex. One of them wrote: “Someone punish her with their shaft.” Another responded: “I do believe that with my reputation I would destroy her.”

“The fact that the five men could so casually discuss and joke about me and the position students have elected me to hold in such sexually violent ways points to how normalized rape culture, misogyny and sexism are on our campus and in our society,” Roy said in a statement posted on the student union’s website. “This kind of behaviour has clear impacts on women; it creates an environment that is intimidating, threatening and toxic. Women on this campus and in our society deserve better.”

The university’s hockey team was suspended last week after several members allegedly assaulted a woman during a trip to Thunder Bay.

Last week, the President Allan Rock announced that the university would create a task force to investigate the two incidents.

Elboujdaini says the rape culture on and off campus is not new, “takes on many forms” and affects us all.

“Labels such as “discrimination” and “sexual harassment” identify it in the workplace and elsewhere, while among students it is sometimes known as “date rape” or even excused as ‘black humor’”, she writes. “It also exists between administrators, within university residences, and even sneaks in both left-wing and right-wing activist networks.

“Because rape culture is alive and well, and persists through the pernicious comments of those who intimidate women and men who speak out. Because it thrives due to those who bully while hiding behind patriarchal tools enshrined in the law, in the silence of the media and in public relations campaigns… Because it stigmatizes victims and polarizes relations. Because it is violent and contributes to a climate of mistrust. Because it plays on the guilt and shame of everyone. ”

Former Governor General and University of Ottawa chancellor Michaelle Jean agrees.

“What we were just brutally reminded of this week is the pervasiveness of misogyny, of women-hating, of words and attitudes that contribute to gender and sexual violence and I’d like to say that such incidents are the tip of a systematic iceberg,” she said. “They are part of a continuum of violence in our society and in our world. A continuum of violence that extends from locker room – where abuse may be spoken in jest – to actual physical violation.”

You can support Elboujdaini’s recommendations on uofo-lets-talk-about-it.org.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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