Five hundred & eighty eight days

Next steps for the Queen’s community surrounding sexual assault 

Landon Wilcock on campus.
Landon Wilcock on campus.
Photo: 

This article talks about sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.

Early last week as I walked through the University District on move-in day, I began noticing bedsheets hanging from my peers’ houses. With obscene phrases and degrading messages on the signs, I was brought back to 588 days ago.

Day zero

It was 4am and everything was blurry, but I remember walking down a busy street. Maybe it was far down Princess, I can’t remember. I was shaking, unsure of what to do; my mind uncharacteristically scattered. I started calling and texting some close friends. 

Half an hour later, a friend answered their phone, but I couldn’t say what had happened — all I could muster was that I had a bad night. I got into my bed two hours after leaving my last location and after I woke up the next morning, I told myself everything was fine.  

Day four hundred and eight

I was out with friends in the Hub and I had too much to drink. During my walk home, I finally sent the message to one of my oldest friends and my former partner of four years, “I could never tell you until now, but I got raped.” 

This was the first time I had ever disclosed my sexual assault to anyone, or truly accepted the last 18 months of my own reality to myself. 

Today

For the last 588 days, I’ve struggled, often denying what had happened. 

In my head I wasn’t a victim, or a survivor, because I refused to accept it even occurred. Since then, I’ve created different narratives to avoid accepting it. 

Some days I would tell myself it was just harmless fun that got a little out of control. Other days I would blame myself for not getting out; I am, after all, a male who only a year prior had competed at an elite level of weight-lifting. 

These falsely constructed narratives continued to play out until I finally broke. 

I’ve gone through many other phases: my depression worsened, I lost more weight, I struggled with intimacy, relationships, bursts of emotion (generally frustration or anger) and holding any trust in  the people around me. In many ways, I am in no way healed today. 

I’ve twice attended first sessions with mental health professionals and twice not returned for more. Just two weeks ago, I had an appointment with a professional and I couldn’t get myself to attend.  

My struggle to access various sexual assault services on campus and in the community left me wondering if the services for survivors just weren’t accessible as a Queen’s student. 

My experience is in no way a rarity — one in four Queen’s students reported to have been a victim or survivor of sexual assault (Queens Climate Survey, 2015). 

Despite this, we still treat survivors and victims as statistical outliers, often reacting with shock when it’s brought to the forefront of our campus. 

With the development of the Bystander Intervention Program and the hiring of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator Barbara Lotan, 

Queen’s administration has made progress over the last couple of years. However, if you review the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response  Working Group Report and Recommendations (SAPRWG), completed in April 2015, it becomes clear that many important recommendations from the report haven’t been implemented. 

Perhaps one of the most important recommendations given by the report was the creation of a Sexual Assault Response and Prevention (SARP) centre on campus. If there was one on campus in the days following my assault, I’m confident I would have sought help much quicker and would have been able to begin working through the symptoms I have suffered from for the last 18 months. 

Students who are seeking help after an assault can go to the Sexual Assault Centre of Kingston (SACK). However, this centre is only open on a 9 to 5 work day basis (with a 24 hour telephone crisis line) much like the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator. Alternatively, students can consider the Sexual Assault and Family Violence centre located in the Kingston General Hospital. 

In my situation, I had no interest in going to a hospital. I’ve heard horror stories of my friends and peers going in to a hospital after a sexual assault and receiving poor care and support, while being blamed and judged for what happened to them. The SACK is about four kilometres from my campus and it felt daunting to leave. Personally, I viewed it as a risk. 

My friends have also struggled with sitting in the same lecture hall or the same residence as their perpetrator. An outside resource can’t navigate this issue. Would they understand the reporting process of Queen’s or do they have a voice or any power at Queen’s? 

A campus centre would provide an all-in-one safe place for survivors without having to venture off campus into potentially unwelcoming situations. Survivors exist at Queen’s and this centre would offer solidarity and support to survivors and victims.  

This centre would be a better resource for survivors and victims as it would function as “a single point of entry for integrated and holistic sexual assault response, support, advising, counselling, advocacy, and case management services; and a driving force for campus-wide sexual violence prevention education and first-response training.” 

Although it was considered by the administration where the new Wellness Centre will be, former Provost Alan Harrison didn’t move forward with this recommendation following a Board of Trustees budget meeting in July 2016.

Without an on-campus SARP centre and no plan to resolve this issue, the Queen’s administration has allowed for a large gap to exist for survivor support in our small community. 

If schools such as Concordia University, who established their Sexual Assault Resource Centre in 2013, can fund a |sexual assault resource centre, how is Queen’s University, one of the nation’s richest universities — with over one billion dollars in total assets in their endowment fund — unable to provide a centre? 

The Queen’s community can’t hold the administration solely responsible for breaking down the culture of sexual violence on campus. Students can make a difference too. Although we have a new sexual violence policy, passionate and amazing individuals involved with the Bystander Intervention Program and student groups such as Consensual Humans, I believe many of us can do a lot more. 

We, as students, create the culture we live in — let’s work together to create a community where everyone can feel safer. 

You can write letters and emails to Queen’s administration advocating for the recommendations from SAPRWG to be implemented. 

You can independently change the culture by intervening in situations which appear unsafe either through direct intervention, indirect intervention, such as calling campus security, or by alerting someone with greater authority than yourself.

You can unlearn the many things our culture has conditioned us to believe about how and who sexual assault affects. You can believe and support your peers when they disclose an experience of sexual assault to you. 

We can also shut down the smaller things that allow rape culture to thrive. When a friend makes a joke about rape, you don’t have to be silent. You should speak up; rape isn’t a punch-line to a stupid joke. 

I hope my story allows people to recognize that not every survivor we visualize is the image we’re often taught to believe solely exists. 

A survivor can be your brother, your teammate, a classmate or your friend. 

I’m not sharing my story as evidence that sexual assault occurs at Queen’s; there’s ample data which proves the far too high rate of sexual assault in our community. 

Rather, I wrote this as a process of healing and in hopes that it will help in creating the dialogue about preventing sexual violence that we so badly need on college campuses like ours.

By working together at all levels and holding administration accountable, we can prevent someone in our community from ever having to suffer their day one, or their day 588. 

Landon Wilcock is a fourth year Politicial Studies major and Bystander Intervention Facilitator. 

 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.