Students march to Take Back the Night

Photo Credit: Samantha Tu (Students and community members rally for Take Back the Night)

Students and community members rally for Take Back the Night. Photo credit: Samantha Tu


One day after students rallied to end sexual violence, a case of sexual harassment surfaced near Sheridan College’s Trafalgar Campus.

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the Child and Youth Care/ Social Service Workers peer mentors held Take Back the Night – an event to promote awareness of sexual violence against women. It also paid tribute to missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Speaking at the event, Sheridan President Jeff Zabudsky acknowledged the ongoing problems of sexual violence on campus.

“We all know that Sheridan itself has encountered a number of challenges in the last couple of years, just here on this very campus, in the forests and the trees that surround, and it has just really raised in our minds the sheer importance of being vigilant,” he said.

The following day, Sheridan security sent out a safety bulletin about a case of sexual harassment near campus.

A middle-aged man harassed a female in a manner of “unwanted communication of a sexual nature and unwanted contact” as she was walking near Trafalgar Campus, according to the bulletin.

Sheridan has made moves to deter sexual violence on campus, such as introducing the stand-alone and response protocol policy, which was finalized in March 2015.

“The reason why it was important to have this event is because of all the violence that has been happening on campus,” said Take Back the Night organizer and peer mentor, Hafsa Nadeen. “We felt that people need to know that it is a safe environment, that there is help out there for you, that things happen to everyone, and you’re not alone.”

“I think [sexual violence on campus] is still a problem,” she said.

Speakers referred to the violence against women in Canada as a crisis.

Jess Kiley, a worker from Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton, spoke at the event and lamented the rates of sexual violence against women.

“Unfortunately if you talk to women and girls, feminine identifying folks, in your communities, in your classrooms – almost all of them will have an experience, an experience of sexual harassment, of being groped, of having their space violated,” she said.

According to a 2011 Statistics Canada study, 173,600 women aged 15 or older were victims of violent crime that year. While that number is only slightly higher than the rate of violence against men, women experience much higher rates of sexual violence.

“Women were eleven times more likely than men to be a victim of sexual offences and three times as likely to be the victim of criminal harassment (stalking),” Stats Canada reports.

Many of the speakers denounced the rates of sexual violence occurring on university and college campuses.

“There are a lot of studies about sexual violence happening on college campuses, one in particular from the University of Alberta, where 21 per cent of students reported having at least one unwanted sexual experience in their life, with 15 per cent occurring after the age of 14,” said Kiley. “Of those students who were apart of that number, 42 per cent said it took place while they were on student campus. This is a place of learning, a place where you should be realizing your potential as a human being, a place where you can connect with yourself and connect with others.”

Contributing to this crisis is the lack of a response from the federal government in regards to the hundreds of aboriginal women who have gone missing over the past two decades.

Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper has claimed that, “Most cases were solved.” However, the RCMP has refused to release data to back up this claim. In March 2015, an expert UN human rights committee found that Canada was responsible for “grave violations” of human rights due to the failure to protect aboriginal women and properly investigate crimes.

“The crisis of violence against aboriginal women in this country, this is something that has been met with a lot of dismissal by the current government,” stated Kiley. “We are not seeing a response. So part of that response has to come from us.”

Take Back the Night’s response has come in the form of healing, and working to create a dialog to solve problems.

“We are agents of empowering people,” said Paula Laing, Sheridan’s Aboriginal Initiatives coordinator. “We don’t need to be helped as if we are less. We need to feel empowered…we retell the stories of the missing and murdered aboriginal women, we retell the stories of our own victimization so that we now have back our power.”