Sexual violence an afterthought in the vice-president (student life) race

Today at the first SUBstage forum, I asked the vice-president (student life) candidates to talk about their platform on sexual violence. Up to this point, sexual violence had only been mentioned three times in the race, specifically in the vice-president (student life) candidate Q&A, and at the Augustana forum. The candidates seemed to be caught off guard by the question, and didn’t have canned answers prepared. Rather, they spoke off the cuff, and gave the best answers they could.

Shuaa Rizvi talked about implementing the 10 asks that were brought forward in the 2016 Review of the University of Alberta’s Response to Sexual Assault, as well as implementing a sexual assault centre at Augustana. She also demanded that the university be held accountable for their empty promises on reforming their sexual assault policy. It seemed like a spontaneous answer rather than a coherent platform point.

Jared Larsen’s answer simply relayed his platform points. The idea of making sexual assault a larger community issue by reaching out to the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton and providing more resources available to survivors is a great one. But why hasn’t it come up prominently yet in his campaigning?

Rory Storm was seemingly unaware of current initiatives to inform students of issues surrounding sexual violence. He talked of incentivizing “general students” to attend workshops as opposed to just student leadership. He was apparently unaware this is already happening. The UAlberta Sexual Assault Centre already reaches out to classrooms, residence, and other university initiatives. I would like to attribute Rory’s use of the term “anti-assault culture” as a nervous fumble of rape culture, but at this point I’m unsure if I him could afford such benefit of the doubt.

I could share statistics and reports on sexual violence that occurs on campus. I could drive home the fact survivors still have to fight just be believed, and have to constantly justify themselves. I could talk about how Andre Bourgeois’ plan of having a sexual assault support coordinator failed to be realized. I could write an entire dissertation on campus rape culture and how it still persists.

The sad reality is that it seems the vice-president (student life) candidates are treating sexual violence as a buzzword-y platform point, failing to give it the attention it deserves until someone presses them on it. Shame on them.

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