'Consent at Queen’s’ highlights prevalence of sexual violence on campus

Instagram account creates space for students to share stories of sexual violence

Regarding Queen’s current sexual violence prevention policy, Sieroka and Avis Kozar said the University “has a long way to go.” 

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.

Instagram account ‘Consent at Queen’s’ launched on Aug. 20 to raise awareness about instances of sexual violence and address consent culture within the institution. 

The platform was inspired by Instagram account ‘Stolen by Smith,’ which documents the systemic racism, oppression, and privilege at the Smith School of Business. 

This form of social media activism has sparked a movement of student-run accounts addressing issues at the University, including‘Erased by FEAS,’ ‘AMSxposed,’ and ‘Consent at Queen’s.’

Account owners Megan Sieroka, ArtSci ’21, and Maeve Avis Kozar, ArtSci ’21, are committed to combating the “pervasive rape culture at Queen’s,” as described on their submission form. 

The two are also co-chairs of the AMS-ratified club, Consensual Humans. After launching in 2017, the club works to facilitate change on campus through trivia nights centred around consent and blog posts analyzing global issues of sexual violence. 

READ MORE: Queen’s new sexual violence policy deters survivors from coming forward

“The three main pillars of ‘Consent at Queen’s’ are humanizing statistics through greater awareness, empowering survivors, and sparking institutional change,” Sieroka told The Journal. “We are hoping to eventually create a cultural shift in how the University deals with consent and sexual assault.” 

The account had gained 490 followers at the time of publication and had posted over 40 anonymous submissions from current and former Queen’s students. The posts shared a range of experiences, from uncomfortable conversations and cat calling to instances of sexual assault, coercion, and rape. 

 
 
 
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Sieroka and Avis Kozar said they’re attempting to create “a comfortable and safe space for survivors to share their stories.” The Instagram page is not specific to one faculty or group and is open to submissions from the Queen’s and larger Kingston communities. 

“This is a broad and really sad issue that can unite anybody,” Avis Kozar said. 

In February, the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Climate Survey results ranked Queen’s as the second-highest university in the province for sexual harassment, with 71.4 per cent of Queen’s respondents reporting instances of sexual harassment. 

READ MORE: Following delay, University shares proposed revisions to sexual violence policy

Regarding Queen’s current sexual violence prevention policy, Sieroka and Avis Kozar said the University “has a long way to go.” 

The updated policy was specifically criticized last October for its disclosure requirement which mandated that University employees immediately report a student’s name, student number, and email address to the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator, Barb Lotan, after a disclosure of sexual assault. 

This requirement has since been suspended, but Sieroka and Avis Kozar argue the policy is still not up to par. 

“The current policy doesn’t adequately allow for students to voice their experience at Queen’s,” Sieroka said. “It doesn’t create a safe space for survivors, and actually deters students from reaching out to faculty—isolating them and making them feel alone.”  

In contrast to the University’s sexual violence protocols, ‘Consent at Queen’s’ guarantees anonymity and protection. 

READ MORE: Seven formal complaints of sexual violence filed last year, internal report reveals

“A lot of the submissions we receive are about students not wanting anyone to find out about their sexual violence experience,” Avis Kozar said.

Their suggestions for an updated sexual violence policy include mandatory prevention and response training for all University faculty and staff, mandatory consent modules for all incoming students, and a new system for addressing consent and rape culture during Orientation Week. 

Sieroka and Avis Kozar met with Lotan early in the summer to discuss their suggestions for the policy, but haven’t received an update.  

“The way Queen’s handles sexual violence needs to shift,” Avis Kozar said. “In creating a platform for these experiences to be shared, we hope [the] University will do better in ensuring the safety of all of their community.”

The Policy on Sexual Violence Involving Queen’s University Students is under review until Oct. 1. Those interested in providing feedback on the proposed revisions are encouraged to review the documents and contact provost@queensu.ca.

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