Un-Blurred Lines addresses consent

Role of alcohol in sexual assault examined at community event hosted at Robert Sutherland Hall

From left: Jeff Perera, Glen Canning and Caroline Pukall.
From left: Jeff Perera, Glen Canning and Caroline Pukall.
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Experts examined the role of alcohol in sexual assault and addressed the role of men in preventing violence against women at Un-Blurred Lines on Wednesday evening.

The event was hosted by Queen’s and the Safe and Sober Community Alliance, and took place in a full room in Robert Sutherland Hall, with roughly 100 people in attendance.

It featured speeches from Glen Canning, a writer and the father of Rehtaeh Parsons; Jeff Perera, community engagement manager for the White Ribbon Campaign; Queen’s psychology professor Caroline Pukall and Crown Attorney Gerard Laarhuis.

Canning’s speech focused on what his daughter went through after allegedly being raped by four male teenagers at a party.

He said his daughter experienced a culture of “victim-blaming” first-hand. He said she was rejected and bullied by her peers and community, and was blamed for her own assault because she was under the influence of alcohol at the time it occurred.

After the event, Canning said talking about healthy relationships and consent in high school is important in reducing violence against women.

“In Nova Scotia, they teach you about putting condoms on bananas, but they don’t talk about what rape is,” he said.

“I think that if we taught it from a younger age, like grade eight and nine, I think we would have a huge impact on the statistics of sexual assault in Canada.”

Perera spoke of what he called “toxic masculinity”, where men define “masculine” as anything that is “unlike women” and therefore assert dominance over women. He encouraged the male audience to redefine masculinity and work to end violence against women.

Perera later discussed men’s role in ending violence against women with the Journal, saying men have to embrace that they’re “part of the situation”.

“I think it’s those conversations, about why we do what we do as men, and recognizing how we can change those things,” he said.

“The traditions that we have on campuses are ones that we uphold in the community, and we can help shift them. If we collectively choose a new tradition, a new way of doing things, we can make that happen.”

Pukall spoke on the psychological effects of sexual assault and defining consent, which she described as an ongoing process. She said that people should proceed with nothing but “enthusiastic consent” from their partners when looking to be intimate, adding that consent can’t be given if someone is underage or under the influence.

Laarhuis spoke about legal aspects of sexual assault cases. He said that in part, the low rate of convictions for people charged with sexual assault is due to the fact that people who are under the influence when they’re assaulted are considered “unreliable witnesses” in court, based on the assumption that their memory of the assault may not be complete.

There was a brief question and answer period at the end of the speeches, at which point Deputy Provost Laeeque Daneshmend said in his 20 years teaching at Queen’s, he’s noticed that the drinking culture worsens each year. He said the AMS has done little to address the issue.

AMS Social Issues Commissioner Emily Wong denied the accusation of lack of action, and said the AMS is aware of the issues surrounding drinking culture on campus and is taking steps to address it.

Nilijah Reaney, an exchange student from Trinidad, said she felt the event was important because these are “conversations we need to have”.

“This is a lived reality for people that experience sexual assault,” she said.

“What was important to me is the fact that men have such an integral role to play in the fight against sexual violence and sexual assault against women. I think men being a partner and being people that can support and help to end sexual assault is important.”

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