Thursday, 12 March 2015

Columbia University launches community wide program to address rape culture

Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz vowed to carry her mattress everywhere she went until her alleged rapist was expelled from university. 

Emma Sulkowicz's #CarryThatWeight project (which she is doing as her thesis) garnered international attention. Rape culture on university campuses is an urgent problem and Emma's project inspired support from students across the USA - as survivors are feeling let down by the institutions that are supposed to protect them.  

This semester Columbia University launched the "Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative." As one part of this initiative, all Columbia students are taking part in new, required programming that explores the relationship between sexual respect and community membership. 

The programming options available to students include workshops, trainings, film screenings with discussion, videos and reflections, an arts option, and keys to resiliency, which are offerings specially intended for survivors, those who support survivors and others who have experienced trauma. 

Programs like this are a step in the right direction. However - Kirby Dick, director of a new documentary about rape on campus points out in his recent CBC interview that rape culture is alive and well.

In Canada 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted, that number is higher for first nations women and 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The impact this has on our communities can be addressed in a meaningful way and the University of Saskatchewan can play an integral role in setting an example for universities across Canada by raising standards, responsibility and expectations.