Roughly 1,000 Queen’s students walked out of classes on Monday, gathering to support Western University students who say they’ve been victims of sexual violence on campus early this school year.
“I call on all male-identified students to be an ally for us,” one of the speakers, Rebecca Laskin, told rally-goers. “To stand up against the locker-room talk, seek consent, look out for those at risk of sexual violence.”
While students were supporting those from another university, the resounding message was that they believe sexual violence is also a serious problem at Queen’s.
“It’s happening here,” Queen’s student Samantha Lin said. “We all know it. We all talk about it, and we’re aware of it. But what we need more of is the action piece.”
Laskin said, “there is a culture here of sexual violence, of binge drinking and harassment and it just all contributes to this atmosphere.”
Organizers say the support shown during Monday’s planned walk-out underscores the need for meaningful change when it comes to sexual violence on campus.
Their hope is that the large turnout will compel university administration to help spearhead that change.
But even the rally’s most animated speakers point out the necessary change won’t be easy.
“It’s a societal issue,” Queen’s student Rylee Fortier-Turner said. “It’s something that’s going to take time and understanding from everyone to be able to realize that it’s not normal for women or anyone to be that afraid.”
For its part, the university says there are a number of resources in place to help victims of sexual assault – but that more can be done.
“I think we can continue to build the programming, share messaging and develop programs and policies that are more responsive,” Queen’s sexual violence prevention and response co-ordinator Barb Lotan said.
But until that happens, many female students say they will continue to feel unsafe on campus and at student gatherings — and that meaningful change may not come soon enough.