Rape culture on university campuses consists of much more than the act of sexual assault. But when “No means yes and yes means anal,” appeared on a Western student’s off-campus home, the immediate response was to write it off.
The words, which were written on a window on a house near Western’s main gates, elicited complaints from the student body and a response by the University shortly after, reported The Western Gazette.
Many students took to social media to vent their frustration when Housing mediation coordinator Glenn Matthews told the London Free Press that “the message is really bad, but students do dumb things.”
By not directly condemning the act, regardless of whether students “do dumb things” or not, Matthews may as well have excused it altogether. It’s an unacceptable attitude present both in the words on the student’s house and in Matthews’s belittling response.
To a sexual assault survivor at Western, a sign promoting rape being dismissed by a university official as simply students being ‘dumb’ sends the message that sexual violence can be treated with casual ambivalence.
If incidents like this are going to be passed off as just childish behaviour, the University’s sexual assault policy may as well be a prop.
Even with a policy already established and thus their legal protection in place, it isn’t adequate for Western to dust their hands of the issue and feel their work is done.
When asked about Matthews’ comments, Western’s associate vice-provost of student experience, Jana Luker told The Gazette “no ambassador for Western, no person, staff member at Western would ever say that was okay.”
Her statement also predominantly pointed to the initiatives at the University that have taken place to combat sexual violence, and encouraged people to “read more” about them on their website.
But while Western’s administration was too preoccupied with hastily distancing itself from blame, the student body has lost faith in their university’s care for their wellbeing. A decisive attitude falls in favor of student safety, while a dismissive attitude further risks it.
When the time comes to protect their students, Western’s administration was too busy protecting themselves. It’s time to re-prioritize.
All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to email@example.com.