Needs filled by network

Sexual Violence Action Network fights rape culture

Daniella Dávila, AMS social issues commissioner said that the Sexual Violence Action Network will create workshops that address issues of sexual consent.
Daniella Dávila, AMS social issues commissioner said that the Sexual Violence Action Network will create workshops that address issues of sexual consent.
Journal File Photo

There is no job at the administrative level in all of Ontario that is devoted to ending sexual violence on university or college campuses, yet sexual assault in post-secondary settings remains a huge problem, said Chris Rudnicki, AMS vice-president (university affairs).

He said the Sexual Violence Action Network, which was founded this fall will fill this vacant role on the Queen’s campus.

One of the network’s main goals is to target the culture associated with rape, which exists on post-secondary campuses.

“The rape culture is … the idea that men are entitled to sex [and]… doing things such as making sexual comments [or] not actually calling rape ‘rape,’ ” Rudnicki, ArtSci ’11, said.

Daniella Dávila, AMS social issues commissioner said the first step of the Network is to create strong lines of communication between groups already doing antirape work.

“We wanted [an approach] that would help women empower other women, and would help men teach men about rape culture,” Dávila said, adding that it’s important to understand that heterosexual rape is not the only problem.

While the Network is still in its preliminary stages, many initiatives are planned for the upcoming year, Dávila said.

“We want to create a resource package so [all the organizations involved] have access to the same resources that we can use in our own environments,” she said.

The Network will create workshops that address consent, with the aim of giving these workshops in residences. The Network also plans to lobby the administration to help implement residence don training focused on sexual assault and consent.

Dávila, highlighted the unsettling reality of Queen’s history of rape tolerance on campus.

In 1989, the No Means No anti-rape campaign was active on Queen’s campus and in October of that year, several male students from Gordon House residence decided to plan a counter-campaign, dubbed ‘No Means Yes.’

According to an Oct. 13, 1989 Journal article, on Oct. 5, the students hung hand-made signs that said “No means tie me up,” “No means harder” and “No means more beer” outside their residence windows.

Dávila said that the Dec. 6 Montreal massacre at the École Polytechnique happened soon after the ‘No means Yes’ counter-campaign. The Montreal massacre resulted in 14 women being killed by a male student who declared himself to be fighting feminism. She said the incident was closely tied to the rape culture of the time.

“It’s a sexist culture and it occurs at the societal level, not just at Queen’s,” Dávila, ArtSci ’11 said.

Rudnicki said Queen’s pervasive rape culture didn’t die with the 80s.

In the early 2000s, Rudnicki said that Queen’s Engineering students had signs on the Queensway saying ‘Fathers, thank you for your virgin daughters.’ This is particularly worrying, given the fact that the incidence of reports and counseling at the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston are far higher during the first 12 weeks of school than the rest of the year, he said.

“There has been a lot of great work done on this [since then], but there’s much more that can be done. It shouldn’t be a reactionary approach, it should be a proactive one,” Rudnicki said, adding that one way in which people think about rape is an area where we still need a lot of work.

The Network aims to move away from stranger rape as the main focus for concern, Rudnicki said.

“There’s a much higher incidence of acquaintance rape on campus. These kind of assaults are often subject to a lot of stigma,” Rudnicki said.

The idea for the Network developed over discussions hosted by the Ontario Women’s Directorate last summer.

“From this meeting, it was made quite clear that … university administrations were quite resistant to this because of the bad press that was associated with [issues concerning sexual assault,]” Rudnicki said.

After this, the idea was brought to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), of which Queen’s is a part of, he said.

“A lot of preliminary things were thrown around, but the government made it clear that because of a deficit, there wouldn’t be too much governmental funding for this,” he said. “[The idea was] that campuses should come up with their own networks and solutions, and then apply [for] funding from the government.”

Rudnicki said that then brought this back to the Social Issues Commission and the Municipal Issues Commission. Jointly they decided to try and develop the network.

Groups that joined the Network include: The Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, the Education on Gender Issues, the Queen’s Feminist Review, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, the Levena Gender Advocacy Centre, the No Still Means No Campaign and the SGPS equity office.

“The network is meant to support and cross-pollinate each other’s initiatives. We don’t want this to be a one-time thing, our hope is that this becomes a long-term project,” Rudnicki said.

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