The Western University student walkout against gender-based sexual violence has gained the support of Western University’s president and faculty.
The walkout is set to happen on Friday at 12 p.m. at UC Hill at Western. The event is in response to social media reports that female students living in on-campus housing were drugged and that some were sexually assaulted this past weekend.
On Tuesday, London Police held a media conference, where Chief Steve Williams confirmed they have opened an investigation into “reports circulating on social media that a number of female students at Medway-Sydenham Hall were drugged and sexually assaulted over the weekend — some reports suggest 30 or more students may have been victimized.”
Police also confirmed they are investigating three other incidents of sexual assault involving four female victims, from the previous week.
The reports of sexual assault during the first week of school sparked outrage from students and the community, which lead several students to organize Friday’s event to take a stand against gender-based violence.
“We see this as a positive step forward in publicly affirming a collective commitment to stop gender-based sexual violence. This is an opportunity to work together on Western’s culture, and to ensure everyone feels safe on campus,” said Western President Alan Shepard.
“We fully support members of the campus community who wish to participate in Friday’s event.”
The event has also gained the support of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), which represents faculty members, academic librarians, and archivists at the university.
“We encourage our members who are not teaching tomorrow afternoon to join this walk in support of student safety, and to consider accommodation for students who leave class or lab to join the event,” the association said Thursday on Twitter.
The group of students planning the walkout has several calls for action, which include asking the school to prepare and immediately implement “cohesive and mandatory gender-based and sexual violence education training modules.”
On Thursday, King’s University College at Western University announced the cancellation of all classes on Friday and Monday to allow students time to reset and acknowledge their distress.
Since launching an investigation into the weekend incidents, police have said no one has come forward with a formal complaint related to the online allegations.
Western University is also working with Anova to run drop-in counselling and peer support for students following the reports of sexual assault.
Anova is an organization that works to address gender-based violence, providing shelter for victims and sexual assault support.
From Wednesday to Friday this week, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Western’s Sydenham Hall, Anova will have one-on-one counselling, peer support and calming actives.
Anyone who has experienced sexual or gender-based violence can contact Anova’s Crisis Line 24/7 at 519-642-3000, LAWC 519-432-2204 or the Abused Women’s Helpline at 519-642-3000.
— with files from The Canadian Press