Sexual violence should not be normalized at Queen’s

The University’s prolific party culture has harmful consequences

Students rallied against sexual violence at Summerhill on Sept. 27, 2021.
This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424. 
Queen’s is known for its academic achievements, notable alumni, and incredible faculty. However, it's also known for its notorious party scene. 
Students see parties as a necessary outlet for their pent-up frustrations and to let loose with friends. However, we lose the perceived innocence of getting together for a couple of drinks when we examine the alarming statistics concerning sexual violence at Queen’s.
According to statistics from the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, one in four students at Queens will experience sexual violence during their time here. 58 per cent of Queen’s students see sexual violence as a problem at Queen's. This number increases when looking at students who identify as women, non-binary, and Two Spirit. 
Alarmingly, only three per cent of students identifying as women and 14 per cent of students identifying as men do not see sexual violence as a problem at Queens.
Queen's defines sexual violence as “any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent, and includes sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, and sexual exploitation.” 
The numbers these statistics represent increase when marginalized groups such as gender-diverse people and Indigenous folks are looked at separately.
Earlier this year, there was a report of a young woman being spiked by a needle at Trinity Social and a report of a young woman being assaulted on Brock and University late at night. These reported incidents are not isolated. 
Students living in the University district have faced scrutiny for misogynistic signs proudly displayed outside their homes during Homecoming and Frosh Week celebrations. The people who make these signs and those who walk by with laughter or indifference contribute to a culture normalizing the behaviour that often enables sexual violence at Queen’s.
There's a strong, well-documented connection between binge-drinking, and sexual assault. 
When you drink, your inhibitions are limited. You feel invincible. Combine the social culture of binge drinking and positions of privilege and power, and this feeling of invincibility makes some people think it’s acceptable to take advantage of others in precarious situations. 
Students should not feel unsafe a block away from home, two blocks from a friend’s home, or anywhere in the student neighbourhood. No one should have to run home and lock all their doors and windows, fearful for their safety. 
Despite the idealistic Queen’s “bubble” we tend to live in, our community is not safe from sexual violence. It's likely that almost every individual attending this institution has experienced, witnessed, or heard stories about it. 
Students need to better understand consent. It's enthusiastic, informed, and ongoing in whatever sexual activities they choose to engage with. Unfortunately, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, only 28 per cent of Canadians know this definition. 
Consent is co-opted by positive body language and a clear “yes”. Your consent can be withdrawn at any time and for any reason. Any form of coercion or guilt-tripping from your partner is absolutely in violation of your consent, regardless of whether you’re with a long-term partner. 
The institutional body of Queen’s also has a responsibility to fill these gaps with education and sexual violence prevention services. Only 30 per cent of students have received information or training on the definition of sexual violence and the resources our school has in place to address it. 
Instead of donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City to increase police presence in the University district during Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day, the University should be funding sexual violence awareness, education, and prevention initiatives on campus. 
It’s clear students need to do better, and we need more help from this institution to get there.
Sophia is a fourth-year Global Development student.

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