• Lauren Mitchell

Sexual assault on a college campus - the perspective of a fellow student

My name is Lauren Mitchell and I study Youth and Adult Correctional Intervention at John Abbott College. My program’s classes deal with victims of all kinds, including sexual assault victims. But when I came across the story about a 19-year-old girl who was reportedly sexually assaulted at John Abbott during the summer school session, I was appalled and felt sick to my stomach.

Things that are too close to home like that scare me. I read about how she was treated by police and by school officials, and for the first time, was speechless. I am known to write paragraphs of my opinions on my Facebook page about stories like this, but this time, I honestly did not know what to say as I couldn’t understand why she was being brushed off.

The girl described how the assault by a fellow student left her with bruises on her face and neck, after being bitten, choked, and slapped. She said she was forced to perform oral sex on him in the boy’s bathroom. There are security cameras everywhere in the school, except for in the bathroom of course, but when the footage was viewed by police, they decided to drop the case based on the perception it was consensual.

I can agree that yes, camera footage can look like she is giving consent since she wasn’t fighting back. But here’s the problem; did the police expect the victim to immediately react violently and hit him, or push him away even though the situation hadn’t escalated enough yet for her to feel the need to do that? There was also no sound on the security camera footage, so how could they be so certain that she wasn’t saying “no” to him and “stop”?

Even if she willingly went into the boys’ bathroom and was then was pulled down by her hair and forced to perform oral sex, how can we tell a victim “But you were consenting up until that point”? The girl was allowed to change her mind at any moment and that is her given right, just as a male has the right to withdraw his consent any time he pleases. Consent cannot be seen in the video, therefore police should have continued investigating and not drawn conclusions based on a portion of video.

The second troubling aspect of how the police handled the case is the fact that the girl and her mother asked an officer if the victim should go to the hospital to report her injuries, to which the officer said if she already drank water or chewed gum, there was no point. However, it is standard procedure for a victim of any kind of sexual assault to be brought to the hospital after such an event.

According to sexassault.ca, only 2 to 4% of sexual assaults are false reports, only 6 out of 100 sexual assault incidents are reported to the police in Canada and 1 out of 4 women will experience sexual assault during their lifetime. Why are Montreal police allowing these statistics to remain status quo?

The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations got involved with this after the girl and her mother reported the case to them, and they got together with the college and demanded her rights as outlined in the John Abbott College Sexual Assault Policy which includes her right to protection.

The alleged perpetrator was initially only suspended for the summer school session before the college announced he won’t be back due to “undisclosed reasons.”

The victim is afraid to return to school, will not leave the house unless otherwise accompanied by a friend or relative, and is concerned for her future.

Whose rights were being adequately protected?

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