Recent events at the Royal Military College (RMC) reveal a disturbing history and pervasive culture of sexual violence at the school — and an unwillingness to do the bare minimum to protect students.
Allegations of sexual assault and harassment have surrounded the school — including those against Officer Cadet Alex Whitehead, whose court martial for the alleged rape of a junior cadet is ongoing.
Yet this is likely one of the few cases in which the reporting of an incident has led to a perpetrator being formally charged.
Victims of sexual assaults at RMC were driven to seek legal counsel to prevent their own expulsion, demotion or suspension.
No action was taken by the school to investigate these incidents. Nor any move to rectify the persistent culture of hostile hyper-sexuality — that’s been identified in a review of sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces in April.
Instead, the administration used evidence of psychological trauma resulting from being violently assaulted as ammunition to deem victims unfit for their chosen career.
RMC’s administration has been unpardonably uncooperative in investigating this issue.
The school’s refusal to admit the existence of the issue has resulted in a systemic tradition of denial and disregard for the lives of those under its tutelage.
The superiority of being a military organization doesn’t exempt RMC from accountability for sexual violence.
On the contrary, the institution’s failure to address its problem is all the more troubling because the mindset fostered among the cadets at the college will be carried forward by future army personnel.
Overturning the normalization of sexual assault within its ranks is an opportunity for men, in an aggressively male-dominated military, to exercise responsible leadership in the anti-sexual assault and harassment movement.
However, sexual assault and harassment isn’t a problem that’s isolated to RMC.
Since the launch of Kathleen Wynne’s “It’s Never Okay” Action Plan, the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment has become more evident, as has the necessity of cooperation between administrations and individuals.
As a larger movement gains force in Ontario to combat sexual violence and harassment, integral institutions, such as RMC, can’t be overlooked.
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