Western University Students Plan to Leave Friday Amid Sexual Assault Allegations | The Canadian News

Western University students plan to leave classes on Friday to protest the “culture of misogyny” on campus and what they call a failure of the school to address it, an organizer said Wednesday.

The event is being planned as police investigate allegations of sexual assault during school orientation week in London, Ontario.

Organizer Hayden Van Neck, a third-year psychology student, said binge drinking, binge parties, and aggressive behavior toward women are campus-wide problems that have been present throughout her time in college.

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“There is this culture of misogyny and homophobia, which are the underlying issues on campus that allow events like this to happen,” Van Neck said in an interview.

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“There has been a lot of violence in the last week, and I think we need some real change to prevent this from happening in the future.”

She and 20 other students have organized the strike, which will see several sexual assault survivors speak with students who drop out of their classes at noon on Friday.

“The response has been overwhelming,” he said of the students’ reaction to the planned event.

The group planning the strike has several calls to action, including asking the school to immediately prepare and implement “compulsory and cohesive sexual and gender-based violence education training modules.”

Students also want the school to clarify the sexual violence reporting process, which according to Van Neck, is confusing.

In addition, the group is asking the province’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities to carry out an investigation into the school’s gender-based violence policies, claiming that they “do not protect students.”

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Police at Western University, London, are urging survivors to come forward amid social media reports of student assault and drug addiction.

Western president Alan Shepard said in a statement that the school fully supports members of the campus community who want to participate in Friday’s strike.

“We see this as a positive step towards public affirmation of a collective commitment to stop gender-based sexual violence,” she said. “This is an opportunity to work together in the Western culture and ensure that everyone feels safe on campus.”

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The school has said it takes the recent allegations seriously and offers a wide variety of supports to students.

Western and London police have said four women have filed formal complaints about being sexually assaulted on campus in recent days.

Police are also investigating allegations made on social media of mass drug addiction and sexual assault at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during orientation week.

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Students call for action in the wake of sexual violence allegations at Western University

However, the force has noted that no one has filed a formal complaint about those allegations online.

The allegations came when an 18-year-old Western student died after being assaulted near campus over the weekend. A 21-year-old man, who Western said was not a student, has been charged with manslaughter.

Annalize Trudell, manager of education, training and research at Anova, a gender-based violence shelter in London that works with Western students, said the culture in the school, and in all post-secondary schools, must change.

“Most sexual assaults in this age group involve alcohol use,” he said, adding that it’s not just about getting a potential victim drunk to make her more vulnerable.

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“We know from research that alcohol use means that men are actually more likely to be aroused by deterrence and angry by rejection,” he said. “So it changes its behavior in terms of being more predatory in nature.”

There is also a tendency for young men to ignore other men who are predatory towards women, he said.

“There are not many people who criticize the behavior of that really aggressive perpetrator,” Trudell said.

According to Student Voices on Sexual Violence, a province-wide survey of post-secondary students conducted in 2018, one in three Western students surveyed indicated they were sexually assaulted in the past 12 months. More than 8,000 Western students responded to the survey.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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