Queen’s must ‘flip the script’ on damaging sexual violence culture

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This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have  experienced sexual assault. We acknowledge this term is not universal.

Queen’s is responsible for prioritizing a safe, welcoming environment for all of its students, and that includes survivors of sexual assault. 

But the use of victim-blaming language when advertising the University’s sexual violence resources does just the opposite, and it's completely unacceptable.

A poster circulating Queen’s campus at the end of October advertising Flip the Script, a sexual assault resistance education program, has generated serious backlash from students—and for good reason.

The poster, written in calligraphic font on a starry background, features the phrase “Girl, you got this. You are strong. You are smart. You are capable of resisting sexual violence.”

The implication of this phrasing, intentional or not, is intensely insulting. 

Through condescending language focusing on female-identifying students, the poster’s wording implies that women control the sexual violence narrative, and any woman smart and capable enough can avoid being assaulted. 

But the key to protecting all students from sexual violence is dismantling rape culture, not blaming survivors. 

In her apology, Barb Lotan, Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Coordinator and campus Flip the Script program trainer, explained that the poster was developed in a focus group two years ago. 

But claiming the poster is out-of-date isn’t an excuse. Instead, it’s merely illustrative of another, bigger problem.

The culture surrounding sexual violence is constantly shifting. It’s the job of University professionals and offices working against this violence to share updated knowledge and resources with the community. 

The decision to use an outdated poster is more than just an oversight. It demonstrates Queen’s inability to sufficiently recognize or rectify victim-blaming.

The flaws in the poster’s advertising extend beyond its language: they highlight the school’s misplaced and narrow focus on sexual assault survivors’ supposed responsibility.

While a disproportionate number of women are impacted by sexual violence, women are not the only victims of sexual assault. However, Flip the Script’s advertising singles out women as the only ones vulnerable to such trauma. 

Programs like Flip the Script, aimed at empowering and educating women, have merit, but they’re not enough to improve sexual violence prevention measures on campuses.

To truly flip the script on sexual violence at Queen’s, the University must do more to engage with male students and educate them about rape culture and consent.

Sexual violence isn’t an individual problem. It’s a pervasive, systemic issue ingrained in our culture. But as it stands, the way that Queen’s communicates campus resources like Flip the Script only places the burden of resisting assault on women’s shoulders.

This isn’t just wrong—it actively fails to protect and support the University’s students.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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