UBC must address "rape culture" on campus, Take Back the Night organizers say

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      The students behind a planned Take Back the Night event at the University of British Columbia say administrators are contributing to “rape culture” on campus.

      Emily Monaghan and Rain are organizing the rally and march, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening (October 30). In a joint interview, they told the Georgia Straight that UBC has reacted to a string of sexual assaults by sending out a message that amounts to—in their words—“Don’t get raped.”

      “All the onus is on women to protect ourselves and our bodily autonomy,” Monaghan, a first-year environmental sciences student, said over the phone from the Alma Mater Society’s Womyn’s Centre. “Yet there is no question of why these assaults are taking place and why sexism is so prevalent on campus, and there is no initiative for dialogue about sexualized violence on campus. It’s not happening in the classrooms, and it’s not happening within the institution itself.”

      In the past month, the university detachment of the RCMP has alerted the public to the sexual assaults of three female student residents on campus. The attacks—each perpetuated by an “unknown male”—took place on September 28, October 13, and October 19.

      The RCMP and UBC are scheduled to hold a news conference today (October 29) at noon to provide an update on the sexual assault investigations.

      Both Monaghan and Rain said that they have heard “victim-blaming” in the university’s and RCMP’s messaging, as well as from some male students on campus. Rain, a fourth-year gender studies and sociology student, noted that one of the main messages emanating from UBC is “Don’t walk alone at night.”

      Indeed, in her October 25 update for the campus community, UBC vice-president for students Louise Cowin began: “In the week following the third stranger sexual assault on our campus, I am writing to ask all of you to be extra careful and take important safety precautions in light of ongoing RCMP efforts to apprehend the person(s) behind recent violent attacks.”

      However, Cowin did acknowledge that UBC is aware of concerns like those expressed by the Take Back the Night event organizers.

      “Finally, members of our community are reminding us to be careful in our response not to ‘blame the victim.’ There is an important discussion to be had around violence against women: what causes it, what enables it, what perpetuates it and what will really defeat it. It is important for this dialogue to continue. But until the attacks stop, we are doing all we can to provide information so you can make choices to ensure your safety,” Cowin wrote in her update.

      Monaghan asserted that the university must immediately take steps to address the sexist attitudes of students, professors, and administrators if it is to make the campus safer.

      “There is a notion that this is a singular issue and it’s not reflective of the overall dominant culture on campus, which is not the case,” Monaghan said. “There have been many incidents—not of sexual assault, per say, but of harassment and sexism, especially against women.”

      In September, UBC made headlines when it was revealed that Sauder School of Business students sang a “rape chant” during the Commerce Undergraduate Society’s frosh activities.

      Wednesday’s Take Back the Night rally and march will kick off at the Museum of Anthropology at 5 p.m. The organizers said there will be an open mic and everyone—including “male allies”—is encouraged to attend.

      “It’s going to be a very emotional and provoking event,” Monaghan said. “I think it’s going to be a good experience for people, and people should definitely come out.”

      Comments

      42 Comments

      G

      Oct 29, 2013 at 10:13am

      "Blaming the victim" is wrong, just as wrong as "blaming the gender" of the criminals responsible for the assaults. I understand that students of "gender studies" have no alternative to blaming all men as they have been conditioned to see groups rather than individuals but when you hold half the population solely responsible for the actions of outliers you aren't proposing any solutions. Some people believe that all the rapist needs is a special class to learn that sexual violence is wrong, as tho a person who drags a woman off of a path into the bushes is just a lecture away from understanding the error of his ways. Absurd.

      Stop blaming "men" in their entirety for sexual violence against women and start blaming individuals for their actions. Stop protecting abusers and rapists by hiding them in a crowd of billions. Stop fantasizing that there is a magic switch that will end criminal behaviour, like a class on stopping rape.

      Naturally increasing security on campus is something to which the left is opposed. Common sense suggestions are decried as somehow perpetuating "rape culture." Leaving the only option to blame "men" and pretend that we get together in groups and encourage our friends to commit sexual violence against women. Such are the "solutions" proposed by folks conditioned to group think, nothing practical or realistic but plenty of rhetoric and theory.

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      Alan Layton

      Oct 29, 2013 at 12:24pm

      "Monaghan asserted that the university must immediately take steps to address the sexist attitudes of students, professors, and administrators if it is to make the campus safer."

      There's nothing quite as ignorant as a naive university student. There's no indication that this guy (assuming it is one man) has anything to do with UBC. It's a perfect place for attacks such as this because you have a huge population of young women and when you combine that with late nights and isolation, this is what you get. However, it should be pointed out that sexual assaults take place in all parts of the lower mainland and they think this same guy is responsible for assaults off campus as well.

      The reason the RCMP and others are saying to not walk alone if purely for safety, it is not blaming women and I think their statements are extremely sexist. A few pointless 'demands' by Women's Studies students and a protest will do nothing. How effective have the long-running 'Take Back the Night' protests in the DTES been? Have sexual assaults decreased as a result of them?

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      Bruce

      Oct 29, 2013 at 1:20pm

      In the annals of failed, counter-productive political messaging, "rape culture" has to be one of the biggest faceplants ever conceived.

      I don't doubt the stats on date rape or assault. Nor do I doubt that many attitudes and aspects of our larger culture need reform.

      However, studies of the problem of sexual assault are telling us something that is totally sideways to the theories of "gender studies" departments. Just looking at date rapists, the average number of victims per male who has committed this offense is seven (7). The portion of males who have committed an assault, yet only involving 1-2 victims, is small.

      What does this mean? It means that even if 20% of women have been victims of a sexual assault, the percent of men who have committed one very low, in the 2-4% range.

      This isn't a "culture", it's closer to the percentage of males with psychopathy or some other major personality disorder. This is a small minority, and I wouldn't be surprised if it has almost complete overlap with the percent of males who are serial bullies to other males at every stage of life. I doubt this small percentage is sensitive to social pressure and campaigns designed to induce guilt or empathy.

      If the results of these studies of the perps are true, they imply that a successful campaign would be aimed at enlisting, not alienating, the 97% of men who are not a danger to help police the behavior of the 3% that are.

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      Prof. Greg Martin

      Oct 29, 2013 at 2:58pm

      What the commenters so far seem to be overlooking is this: there is one sick and dangerous stranger-assaulter running around UBC, and of course we all hope that he is found and stopped immediately. But over the past two months, there have been dozens of sexual assaults at UBC, committed by normal people - your friends, your students, your brothers - who are known to the victims. This happens every year, at UBC and everywhere in the country; but we don't hear about them, because our society takes it as normal (normative) that "boys will be boys", that they'll cross the line and engage their female friends and acquaintences sexually without consent, and that it's "no big deal".

      That is rape culture.

      I am a white male (and heterosexual and with a comfortable career and health - life's jackpot of privilege). And I understand that rape culture is real, and harmful, and our collective responsibility. So if you - Bruce, or Alan, or G, or whoever's reading this - want to dismiss the descriptions of people who *study social justice for a living*, you can't just imagine that it's only some sect of crazy liberal whatevers. It's me, and people like me, and people nothing like me, and your friends and sisters and brothers, and your mothers and daughters, who recognize its existence. If you don't believe that something bad needs fixing - or if you don't want to believe it - then you'd better address the actual assertions being made, rather than trying to stereotype the people you think are the only ones making the assertion.

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      Rocko

      Oct 29, 2013 at 3:05pm

      UBC has much bigger issues on their plate, like cutting varsity athletics, than to sort out their rape culture problem.

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      bex apostoli

      Oct 29, 2013 at 3:20pm

      shame on the previous commenters here. when it comes to issues of rape awareness, why is it always men who insist on muddying the narrative with this male-centric, patronizing and rape-culture denial bs? it would be great if men would stand in solidarity and use their loud voices not to undermine, but support this movement and the efforts of these brave student organizers. even if you are not capable of recognizing or experiencing the truth of a patriarchal culture that silences and dis-empowers women, you should want at the minimum safe streets for your daughters, wives, sisters and friends.

      Alan Layton

      Oct 29, 2013 at 3:26pm

      Prof. Greg Martin - and your solution is?

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      Hazlit

      Oct 29, 2013 at 3:47pm

      @bex

      Why is questioning rape culture equivalent to denying safe streets for the women we love? Why is feminist culture so incapable of accepting ANY criticism from men?

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      Bruce

      Oct 29, 2013 at 3:56pm

      Martin:

      On this sort of topic, I'll trust criminologists, but I will certainly not trust "people who *study social justice for a living*". You are describing ideology, not an activity for determining what is true or effective.
      I've read quite a bit of the sort of theorizing that goes on in "gender studies", and it isn't any sort of science. It's one conjecture nailed to another like Wile E Coyote trying to build a bridge out of old planks of wood.

      "If you don't believe that something bad needs fixing..."

      In fact, I do. But I notice you avoided engaging with the fact that only a small percentage of men commit rape of any kind. That kind of fact is a clue to profiling the people who are a problem and stopping it at the root.

      While those involved in "gender studies" may be identifying valid problems, their space-alien theorizing about males is ill-equipped for finding ways to resolve those problems. The activists involved are serving first and foremost their grand ideology of gender, not solving the problem. They're spraying down the garden with broad-spectrum herbicides rather than just pulling weeds.

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      alumni

      Oct 29, 2013 at 3:57pm

      i thought this was part of the ubc experience. the institution did it to me and all my classmates.

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