It is almost Christmas break and although the first week of school is in the past, it is undeniable frosh week has gotten out of hand.
Western University in London, Ont., had rumours of about up to 30 young women being drugged and sexually assaulted at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus. This information went around social media in early September.
Despite a day of interviews on campus, police did not receive any reports about the alleged drugging and sexual assaults. Though, four students have reported sexual violence that happened during orientation week but these were unrelated to the residence allegations.
Though this year might have been worse than past Orientation weeks, alleged assaults at the campus are not surprising.
Sara Ahmed, president of a sexual assault research group and a member of King’s University College student council, told the London Free Press: “Taking advantage of freshman women, in particular, is a tradition on campuses during this time.”
As of Sept. 20, students in residence at Western are required to take mandatory in-person consent and violence prevention training to help prevent these actions from happening, but will this action be enough?
Here at Durham College, we do have sexual violence awareness where workshops and classroom sessions are available which talk about consent, active bystander behaviour, responding to disclosures of sexual violence, and more.
Learning about consent has always been talked about since elementary school. Since 2019, all schools in Ontario are required to have sex education in the curriculum which helps young people think about their bodies, their well-being, making safer decisions and reducing risks. The curriculum also includes consent.
Now it is being taught at Western University, but with a different name.
The common phrase many have grown up listening to from elementary through high school is “keep your hands to yourself” yet sexual violence is present on both university and college campuses.
Mandatory training won’t change much.
If sexual violence is a problem just before school even begins, which happens to be happening during orientation week, universities and colleges should be cancelling events such as Frosh Week or finding a way to make it safer.
According to Statistics Canada, about 1 in 10 female students were sexually assaulted in a postsecondary setting in 2019, compared with 4 per cent of men. The majority (71 per cent) of students witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours—either on or off-campus.
Western has said they will be hiring new security, safety ambassadors, and more special constables on campus to help students on campus feel safer, but will it really help students by keeping orientation week as its activities leading to parties are the most vulnerable times for sexual violence to take place?
Most likely not.
Frosh week needs to be cancelled or taken into better account to stop the growing amount of numbers of sexual violence that takes place on and off-campus.