Students attend sexual assault talk by survivor

Session encourages survivors to be open about their experiences on campus

Two days after arriving at Queen’s, all first-year students attended a talk by educator and activist Rachel Griffin on sexual assault.

Dr. Griffin is an associate professor in the department of Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University and a survivor of sexual assault herself.

The event, held during Residence Orientation Week took place at the ARC.

This event was part of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group’s (SAPRWG) strategy to change the way the university approaches sexual assault.

Arig al Shaibah, assistant dean, of student affairs and chair of the SAPRWG, organized the event.

Griffin had been giving a talk at York University when al Shaibah — who was in the audience — realized she could be an integral part of Orientation Week at Queen’s.

“We were all quite compelled by her presentation when we heard her speak,” al Shaibah said.

“She’s a survivor herself, and so the keynote really focused around her own story … issues resonate much better with people when they can relate to a story,” she said.

Members of the working group, along with residence dons and other student advocates, were invited to the talk.

The SAPRWG released a set of recommendations early this year, including the establishment of an on-campus sexual assault centre and the creation of a comprehensive sexual assault policy.

Alan Harrison, provost and vice-principal (academic), has assembled an implementation team to set timelines and determine resource requirements for SAPRWG’s recommendations.

“We’ve also just completed some bystander and first responder training with the dons,” al Shaibah said.

Claire Gummo — a student representative on the SAPRWG and the only student member of the implementation team — said Griffin was an excellent speaker.

“Her honesty in describing her experience as a survivor forced students to come to terms with the harsh reality of sexual violence,” Gummo, ArtSci ’17, told The Journal via Facebook.

“Dr. Griffin encouraged students to foster a campus climate where survivors can be open about their experiences and where there is zero tolerance for sexual violence of any kind.” 

— With files from Jacob Rosen

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