Student groups claim McGill’s sexual assault policies insufficient

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Both the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) and the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE) have condemned McGill’s lack of a sexual assault policy following the publicizing of a case involving the alleged sexual assault of a former Concordia student by three McGill football players.

The case, which appears in court next month, involves an alleged incident that took place in 2011. While McGill officials say they only learned of the case in May 2013, the players in question continued to play for the team in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Released Nov. 6, SACOMSS’ statement points to the incident as evidence that McGill lacks adequate policies, support services, and awareness campaigns for sexual assault.

“While SACOMSS is proud to offer its many services and is committed to continuing its valuable work, we believe that the responsibility to offer these essential services should not fall solely to our volunteers,” the statement reads. “McGill needs to take responsibility for addressing the harms caused within its community.”

UGE issued a statement of a similar nature on Nov. 5, as well as an online petition demanding that McGill reform its current sexual harassment policies. The petition draws attention to past occurrences, such as a case of sexual assault at a football hazing incident in 2005.

“In light of these and past events, we demand that McGill sports teams have mandatory consent workshops and training,” the petition reads. “We demand more effective accountability procedures on the part of the McGill administration, as well as greater transparency in those existing [procedures].”

UGE is a service of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) that provides access to resources, such as anti-oppression workshops. Kai O’Doherty, U3 Arts and one of the collective members of UGE, said the union will continue to pressure McGill for change.

“It’s not just a petition getting enough signatures, and then presenting it,” O’Doherty said. “It’s more like getting solidarity around our statement and to continue to put pressure on McGill, but mostly to bring awareness to the issue and keep rallying around it.”

The petition currently has over 1,100 signatures out of its listed goal of 5,000.

David McCusty, U2 Arts, said  he disagreed with the demand by the UGE for mandatory consent workshops.

“I don’t see the sports culture here as perpetuating rape culture, misogyny, [or] homophobia […] any more than anything else does,” McCusty said. “If the sports teams have to go through consent workshops, it just seems to me that they’re being unfairly targeted in that situation [….] Are the sports teams perpetuating this any more than 4floors does, or that Carnival does, or that frosh does?”

Allison Murphy, an Arts alumnus and UGE collective member, responded to critiques that the petition considered the alleged attackers to be guilty until proven innocent.

“Being pro-survivor, we think it’s important that you always believe the survivor, not just in this specific case, but in all cases of sexual assault,” Murphy said. “So often [in] the legal system […] the onus is on the survivor to prove what happened to them. That can be a very traumatic experience, and often doubt and shame placed on you publicly can stop people from coming forward with these things.”

UGE plans to hold an open forum regarding rape culture in the upcoming weeks.