A student at Mount Saint Vincent University has organized a national campaign in support of a woman who left St. Francis Xavier University over the handling of her sexual assault case.
Shelby Miller, a psychology student from Stewiacke, N.S., created the #IStandWithHer campaign, where students are encouraged to wear teal ribbons to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus.
“We both used to go to [St. F.X.], at the same time actually, and they started the efforts with the teal ribbons on their campus, kind of in support of what happened with the mishandling of justice with the sexual assault on campus. So I thought it would be cool if we could do that on other campuses to show the support,” Miller said.
Despite St. F.X. launching an investigation and finding the accused responsible, the administration set aside its decision to suspend him for the next academic year, without notifying the complainant.
Court documents show the man – who has since withdrawn from the university – was charged with sexual assault last spring, and a preliminary inquiry is set for Nov. 29.
The complainant in that case, a young woman from the Toronto area, has since abandoned her studies at St. F.X.
Miller says she set up a Facebook page last week to promote the teal ribbon event, and since then almost 2,000 students from schools in Ontario, Quebec, P.E.I., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have pledged to support the campaign.
“I think we had 1,300 by the next day,” Miller said.
“It went from 33 people at like 8 p.m. Thursday night to 1,300 people by 9 a.m. Friday morning, which was insane to see.”
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Second-year MSVU student Kim Wills says the campaign is a good way to lend visual support to the issue of sexual assault.
“We always need to support our women, especially in the media now where a lot of it is being dismissed,” Wills said. “feel like showing the ribbon really puts a background for everybody, like a real support, a backbone so women can be confident and speak out on these issues.”
MSVU Student Union representatives Madeline Mitchell and Jordan Wallace spent the day handing out ribbons at MSVU and educating the students about the ongoing situation at St. F.X.
The union is currently rewriting its sexual violence policy to better reflect the needs of students.
“We want to ensure that mount students know that they are prioritized in this policy and that the union and their fellow students want to support them [and] make sure their voices are heard,” Mitchell said.
“These policies need to be centered around survivors not centered around administrators and policy makers.”
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