StFX and Sexualized Violence: Calls to Action
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As a collective of members of the St.FX community who have been failed by our institution we write to Kent MacDonald, the President and Vice-Chancellor of St. Francis of Xavier University. We are expected to trust and love this institution, but it fails to fundamentally protect women and prioritize their education. Further, this institution fails to demonstrate an understanding of the systemic and institutionalized nature of sexualized violence on this campus. In light of recent events, in which the education, safety and well-being of a young woman were jeopardized by the actions and decisions of the University, we write this call to action. It is an outrage that we had to learn of this incident through the media, rather than through the University. The handling of this case cannot be dismissed as a mistake or an oversight.
As a collective we extend our solidarity to the victim/survivor. No words can right the wrongs that have been done, nor can they bring back what has been taken from you. But know that we believe you, we stand with you, and we support you.
The recent handling of a sexual assault on campus was not conducted in a survivor-centric manner. The sexual violence policy was violated and harm was done. By a repeated failure to inform the St.FX community the University adopted a position of neutrality. This failure demonstrates the continual stance that the University takes, to protect perpetrators and suppress the truth. At every opportunity, the University failed to inform and actively protect survivors.
This is not an isolated incident. The lived experience of survivors that has been shared at recent meetings demonstrates that St.FX sustains an environment that protects perpetrators of sexualized violence against women of every sexual orientation and identity. The psychical and emotional safety of students on campus is at risk. It is clear that the sexualized violence policy is insufficient and is not being utilized to its full potential.
As a group, we issue the following Calls to Action:
1) The survivor must be informed and protected throughout the entire reporting and investigation process, including any actions that might be taken after the process is complete (e.g. appeal).
2) All decision-makers and contributors to the sexualized violence policy need to receive education about sexual violence that is survivor-centered and trauma-informed. This includes, but is not limited to; the Judicial board, the Senate, and Student Life. The education should be focused on survivor-focused practice that will allow for better implementation of policies. The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association (AWRCSASA) has offered to provide such education, free of charge, in the past and continues to be willing to provide it.
3) We demand a financial commitment to sexualized violence prevention. The current supports on campus are inadequate; it is not enough to simply rely on the AWRCSASA. St.FX needs a specialized office, with qualified employees to deal with sexualized violence.
4) We demand tangible models of assessment for concepts such as risk and foreseeable threat.
5) We demand a communication plan that informs the campus community. This will demonstrate a willingness to act on behalf of survivors while simultaneously serving to educate the community.
6) We demand a reconstruction of the current sexual violence policy. We need a survivor-centric policy. This can only be accomplished by involving the correct personnel in the reconstruction process. There should be an active attempt to center individuals with special expertise and education on the topic in the revision of the policy; otherwise, the policy will never be survivor-centric.
We, as a collective, will no longer stand for the institutional violence and prioritization of perpetrators over their victims. We are demanding change. There has been bottom up action for long enough, it is time for those at the top of the institutional hierarchy to dedicate their own hard work and emotional labour to ending sexualized violence on campus by changing the campus culture. Concerned and affected students, community members, and faculty have been dedicating their time, energy, emotional capacity and livelihood to understanding and addressing this issue, now it is your turn.
If you #StandWithHer we urge you to join this collective resistance by signing this petition endorsing the above calls to action.
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