While Ryerson recently introduced its first-ever sexual assault policy, some say it doesn’t go far enough to address rape culture on campus.
Janet Rodriguez, director of campaigns and equity with the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), said students should push for the university to do more to help prevent sexual assault, rather than just making policies to respond to cases.
“We need to work on stopping them (sexual assaults) before they happen, along with helping survivors,” said Rodriguez.
“If we do this, it’s better, and it’s easier.”
Students gathered Thursday to talk about how conversations about rape and sexual assault can be reframed.
The event, called ‘Building Cultures of Consent,’ was co-organized by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and CESAR.
In the workshop, facilitated by educator Farrah Khan, a colourful array of tube cleaners and grey clay laid on each table, placed there at a student’s fidgeting disposal to help them stay grounded through sometimes-triggering topics.
Attendees were tasked with learning how to say “no” without the use of verbal cues, and how to respond to common victim-blaming statements. They also delved into the media’s coverage of some recent stories about sexual assault.
“Conversations about rape are heavy,” Khan said. “We need to use creativity, we need to have conversations about this, and doing it in a creative way can make them far reaching.”
While Rodriguez said Ryerson’s new sexual violence policy is a step forward, she said she worries it doesn’t go far enough and “offers remedial solutions when it should be taking more preventative measures.”
Ryerson’s new policy outlines how the university will promote a consent culture on campus and help survivors of sexual assault.
This includes allowing survivors to determine how much they choose to disclose or report about their experience, including whether to report to police or Ryerson Security, not pressuring survivors who do disclose their experience to make a formal complaint and creating the new Office for Sexual Violence Support and Education (OSVSE).
“The policy is accommodating, but it’s not inclusive,” Rodriguez said. “If it’s inclusive from the beginning, then we can work to stop many of these incidents before they happen.”
Nicole Abi-Najem is a Master of journalism student who likes long-form journalism and creative non-fiction.