Returning to campus this fall in Ontario saw uproar and violence at various universities. Most disturbing were the accounts of sexual assault and other violence at Western. London police say they continue to investigate several allegations of sexual assault during Frosh Week, as well as reports of up to 30 sexual assaults at a residence one night.
In September 2019, I was raped on the campus of King’s University College, a Western University affiliate. It was during a fake welcome party, or “FOCUS”. It was inside a campus residence. I did not report it.
I had no proof, my own group of friends didn’t believe me, and I knew how the court system treats survivors. He had heard horror stories from friends they had reported in the past. I did not want to be subjected to retraumatizations, humiliations and a long procedure in which my character was questioned.
In September 2021, I opened Instagram and saw a post that said 30 girls had been drugged and others had been sexually assaulted at a residence on the Western campus.
I spent the whole day crying, thinking about those girls and remembering my own pain and trauma.
As a third-year student, I spent this O-Week (orientation week) as Soph, the name of a first-year mentor and orientation leader. I spent my first Friday helping an unconscious girl on campus. The memory makes me sick.
Every night until 1, 2, or 3 a.m. M., Me, my Soph team, and many of Soph’s other teams sacrifice their safety to respond to emergencies, disperse crowds, and try to keep freshmen safe. I and other volunteers ended up exhausted, traumatized and malnourished. The Sophs who returned to my team said they had never seen an O-Week so disorganized, or freshmen so aggressive and uncooperative.
But the sexual assaults that occurred this year were no strange incidents. The culture at school has allowed violence to grow for years.
Western University’s reputation for a party culture is deeply ingrained. While party culture is not necessarily a bad thing, I have seen the dangerous intertwining of party culture and rape culture, the cultural attitude that rape is normal, expected, and that it holds potential victims and survivors accountable. without consequences.
To untangle these cultures, this school must take the initiative to educate its students. Adequately train student leaders and support survivors. Why does the school think that an optional seminar on sexual consent is suitable for freshmen? Why are Sophs and other student leaders trained in responding to disclosures of assault by students after sexual violence has occurred, but not trained in bystander intervention?
When some male students take advantage of freshmen, when misogynistic signs are displayed during FOCUS, when we continue to maintain our reputation as a party school where no one faces harsh consequences for anything, you begin to realize why. Western has the highest reported sexual assault rates of all Ontario universities.
We do not educate people who are drawn to school for the wrong reasons. We do not discipline them. Even outside of sexual violence specifically, many freshmen repeatedly physically and verbally harassed Sophs, insulted and insulted us with misogynistic and derogatory names, and pushed and grabbed us.
This week O, the male students threw themselves from the lamp posts and hit each other with sticks. Students trampled each other trying to tear down fences. Why did they think they could come here and get away with it? Because school inaction allows it, and potential perpetrators of sexual violence draw lessons from that inaction.
The violence that occurred this O-Week is primarily the fault of the perpetrators. That’s the truth. At the same time, there is a pattern of violence at Western and there are things our administration should have been doing years ago to end it. For starters, they could have implemented bystander intervention training for student leaders, investigated the causes of sexual violence (including misogyny, racism, and queerphobia), created and implemented strong, survivor-focused sexual violence policies.
Western needs to address the root of the problem, and it’s all back to a culture of rape. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I hope that at least the Orientation Week has been a wake-up call to what the students have been saying for a long time. I hope that one day we are all safe.