(Trigger Warning for victim/survivor-blaming rhetoric.)
There is so little written about the problem of sexual assault at Concordia that it just seems like adding insult to injury that one of the first things I found back when I started doing research on the subject was this. This is the website of Concordia’s Security department – the department whose number is featured on info sheets and posters around campus as the number to call if you’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed, and the department that is treated as the first line of service provision at Concordia for survivors of sexual assault.
While it is disappointing, I can’t say it’s not typical; what’s also typical is the response I received from Security when I brought up the issue of their website’s prevention tips – I’ve been told by more than one person that the site is not up for changes, and that while they understand that victim-blaming is a concern, they consider these tips to be relevant to preventing sexual violence.
In case you don’t feel like clicking over, the prevention tips given on Concordia Security’s info page on sexual assault are as follows:
- Avoid isolated and dimly lit areas.
- Be careful when consuming alcohol. If you are alert, you will be able to react quickly to any situation.
- Never let your beverage out of sight. By doing so, you reduce the risk of someone adding drugs to your drink.
- Never accept a drink from strangers.
The problems with this are abundant, obviously: for one thing, if a Concordia student were to “avoid isolated areas”, that would preclude them from ever going to the Loyola campus – and for another, alcohol is not, in fact, the sole cause of sexual violence. I don’t even know where to start with “If you are alert, you will be able to react quickly to any situation” – a statement so loaded with assumptions about a person’s mobility and mental state it’s hard to classify it as anything other than ableist, not to mention patently false; the idea of expecting someone to be able to “react quickly” to ANY situation – especially an assault – based merely on the idea that they are sober shows a lack of awareness that would be laughable if it wasn’t so disturbing.
It’s true that a lot of drinking happens at Concordia. With a student body that’s mostly under the age of 30, and alcohol in Quebec being generally cheap and readily available, it’s just kind of par for the course. But sexual predators and perpetrators of sexual assault drink, too. And sexual assault happens to people who are sober just as much as it happens to people who’ve been drinking. So why so much focus on alcohol?
When creating prevention and education materials around sexual assault, it’s important to consider that, with one in four women and one in six men being victims of sexual assault at some point in their lives, your materials are going to read by people who already survivors of sexual assault by the time they read them. What kind of a message do you want to send to these people?
And what kind of message do you want to send to their rapists?
If you want to tell Concordia Security what you think of their ideas about prevention, you can find their contact info here. In the interests of being productive, I recommend providing them with alternative prevention tips, such as the following (from here) :
1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!
4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!
10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.