A preliminary hearing is set to take place next month regarding three McGill football players charged with sexual assault with a weapon and forcible confinement occurring in September 2011. We, the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), denounce the McGill administration’s efforts to distance itself from this case and from rape culture at McGill in general. As a pro-survivor and anti-oppressive student service, SACOMSS is dedicated to the support of survivors of sexual assault and their allies. Through our work, it has become increasingly apparent that McGill fails to address sexual assault in any meaningful way. In fact, McGill has no sexual assault policy.
McGill appears to act only when its reputation is at stake. In 2005, the McGill football team’s season was cancelled following the media backlash after shameful hazing with explicit sexual connotations. At the time, then-Interim Provost Dr. Anthony Masi stated, “Greater vigilance, a stronger emphasis and investment in positive team-building programs and activities, a greater awareness and responsibility on the part of our coaches, staff and the players themselves are critical to ensure that this never happens again. That is our clear goal.”
This stands in sharp contrast to McGill’s current response. The Gazette article published on November 1st, 2013 reports that the newspaper contacted McGill in the weeks following the events of 2011. Furthermore, the coach at the time was informed after the students were arrested in April 2012. Despite this, no action has been taken on the part of the McGill administration to address these events. We find this reprehensible.
How many times must these assaults occur before McGill develops a policy to address sexual assault? Currently, there is neither a policy to mandate support services and awareness campaigns, nor an outline of how McGill responds to sexual assault at all. While SACOMSS is proud to offer its many services and is committed to continuing its valuable work, we believe that the responsibility to offer these essential services should not fall solely to our volunteers. McGill needs to take responsibility for addressing the harms caused within its community.
When will the administration stop making empty statements and start taking concrete steps to end the systemic perpetuation of rape culture on our campus?
We would like to emphasize that SACOMSS is a pro-survivor service, meaning that we believe this survivor as well as all survivors. While this case may be highly publicized, it is important to remember those survivors whose voices are never heard. SACOMSS is open to all survivors and their allies. For support and more information on our services call our line at 514-398-8500, drop in to the Centre, or visit www.sacomss.org.