Lauren Keller, student reporter for the 100 Mile Free Press. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Lauren Keller, student reporter for the 100 Mile Free Press. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Speaking out about sexual violence

Reporter recounts her experience talking about sexual violence

The first thing you notice when you tell someone about the sexual violence you experienced, is how uncomfortable your story makes them.

Whether it’s their closed-off body language, averted eye contact or the hesitance in their voice, it’s a difficult conversation; which is understandable.

But the problem that comes with that, is people avoid this conversation altogether.

When I started my first semester at university last fall, the last thing I expected was to experience sexual harassment myself. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to move on and carry on with my life.

While I still avoid certain places, and perhaps I’m a little more cautious than I used to be, it’s harder now to turn a blind eye to how prevalent sexualized violence is at universities in Canada.

The statistics are staggering. According to Sexual Violence at Canadian Universities – Activism, Institutional Responses, and Strategies for Change, by Elizabeth Quinlan, Andrea Quinlan, Curtis Fogel and Gail Taylor, “At least one in four women attending college or university will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate.”

In Universities have a sexual violence problem, Charlene Senn has part of the solution, an article by Lesley Evans Ogden in December 2021, “studies in both Canada and the United States suggest that one in five young women will experience rape and one in 10 young men will perpetrate rape by the time they graduate.”

There needs to be action taken to prevent this and deal with it in the event that it does occur. Waiting months for universities to investigate reports is making it difficult to solve this problem.

While the process should be done correctly and with care, I wonder just how long we’ll have to wait. Many people don’t even report their experiences to their university. I almost didn’t.

And I’m not the only one. My friend and classmate told me a man tried to kiss her without her consent. That would have been sexual assault.

According to the Statistics Canada website, the “Students’ experiences of unwanted sexualized behaviours and sexual assault at post-secondary schools in the Canadian provinces 2019” release by Marta Burczycka, “A majority (71 per cent) of students at Canadian post-secondary schools witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in a post-secondary setting in 2019 – either on campus or in an off-campus situation that involved students or other people associated with the school.”

You don’t have to report your experience, but I encourage everyone to reach out and speak out about their stories. As long as you feel safe talking to someone, it doesn’t matter who you tell or how many people you tell. What matters is that the message is shared, and that message is we need change.

If you would like to talk about your experience of sexual violence, you can call the Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-888-933-9007. If you’d like to create a report, contact your university’s Sexual Violence and Prevention Response team or the RCMP.

Lauren Keller is the Free Press’s summer intern, who is leaving us next week to continue her education.

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