Opinion: Sexual harassment incidents indicate high time for change

Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa(Peregrine981/Wikimedia Commons)

Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa(Peregrine981/Wikimedia Commons)

There were two separate occurrences of sexual harassment involving University of Ottawa students that I personally feel are equally disturbing. If this is truly the way that university-aged boys think, then maybe I shouldn’t feel as comfortable at school as I do. And yes, I call them boys because people who think like this shouldn’t be classified as men.

To provide some background on the incidents; the first occurrence was not reported until Feb. 24, but the situation happened on the weekend of Feb. 1, when the University of Ottawa hockey team, the Gee Gee’s, travelled to Thunder Bay to play the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Allegedly, multiple members of the team sexually assaulted a woman while they were there. The woman was either a Lakehead student or it happened on campus but regardless, I’m glad that the team, including the coaches, has been suspended during the investigation. Unfortunately, there are still investigations occurring in Ottawa about sexual assaults that happened years ago around Heron Park, which is located south of the university. Investigations can take years to solve and may not be solved at all. This means that these boys can be under investigation for the rest of their academic careers.

The second sexual harassment incident at the University of Ottawa happened on Feb. 10 when the student federation president, Anne-Marie Roy, received screenshots of a Facebook thread in which four other student leaders, all boys, wrote sexually explicit messages about herI can only imagine how this poor girl feels and I worry about whether this could happen or be happening on Ryerson’s campus. I think people don’t realize how prominent something can be until you hear it happen to someone else. Among the sexual harassment comments, the boys joked that she had sexually transmitted diseases and also wrote about having anal and oral sex with her.

The comment “someone should punish her with their shaft” is disgusting, and a bet for one of them to have sex with her in exchange for beer makes me shake my head. I think that if these boys are proven of sexual harassment they should really reflect on the way they think and speak about women.

Students can learn from, this whether it be at the University of Ottawa or here at Ryerson. The boys were urged to resign from their positions as leaders on campus. I agree this should happen but how are they now just continuing their studies like nothing happened? Sure, they wrote an apology but the public doesn’t know if they’re truly sorry. They may not be. And if they are, I think that there should be a better way to show it because a letter seems forced and it probably was.

What’s baffling about this whole situation is that when Roy took matters into her own hands, and released the pictures of the discussion, the boys told her that she had to stop and she was violating their rights because it was a private conversation. I personally applaud her attempts to expose them. I think that she is a strong leader who is empowering other women to stand out against sexual assault.

Now that she is re-elected, Roy is planning on speaking out against rape culture on campus. She promotes campaigns against sexual violence. I feel that Ryerson is one step ahead because we have these campaigns already. Ryerson’s “Consent is Sexy” may be one of the more well-known anti-rape campaigns on campus as the Ryerson Students’ Union  creates a space to support students in need. I believe that University of Ottawa can become a safer campus for women as long as they make the effort. With Roy in charge, I believe it will.

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