KINGSTON — WARNING: this story contains content that may be difficult for some readers.
A new Instagram account is detailing anonymous allegations of sexual assault at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
Fourth-year Queen’s students Megan Sieroka and Maeve Avis Kozar created the account “Consent at Queen’s” in late August. The two are co-chairs of the on-campus club “Consensual Humans”, and say they wanted to shed light on people’s stories, to support them.
“Our primary goal with this is really to help survivors feel like they’re not alone and to make everyone feel more comfortable at Queen’s,” explains Sieroka in an interview with CTV News Ottawa. “And to lead a movement that hopefully changes the culture on campus.”
The Instagram account details anonymous stories of everything from catcalling, to sexual harassment and assault from those attending university. It follows another Instagram account, “Stolen By Smith”, which details racist experiences at the Queen’s University’s business school.
“Before I could even realize what was happening, he was taking my clothes off. I was too drunk to stop him,” writes one person.
“I woke up with none of my clothes on… he had his phone out taking pictures,” write’s another anonymous individual.
“We’ve had people reach out through DMs or things like that saying ‘I didn’t realize what had happened to me was sexual assault until I had read a similar story on here,'” says Avis Kozar.
A survey by Ontario Universities last year found over 70 per cent of Queen’s students had experienced some level of sexual harassment. Thirty per cent of the university’s students said they had experienced sexual assault either on or off campus.
“Queen’s has devastating numbers when it comes to non-consensual experiences from all students,” says Sieroka. “And we are ranked number two in the province for how many sexual assaults there are on campus.”
Queen’s University says it is aware of the Instagram account and the university’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) have been monitoring activity on the site.
“The university is empathetic to the stories being shared. We encourage anyone directly or indirectly affected by sexual violence of any kind to reach out for support,” writes Queen’s University in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
“No one should have to experience sexual violence of any kind. The university recognizes that sexual violence is a pervasive societal problem; one that includes Queen’s but it is not unique to a university setting. The university is actively taking a variety of approaches on campus to reduce sexual violence and address consent, healthy relationships and other related topics.”
Officials say that multiple departments on campus share responsibility for programming, and that staff work closely with student leaders, clubs and organizations in the community.
“Student survivors of sexual violence, and other students impacted, can access support services in a number of places. Professional guidance and support is available through the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office, Human Rights Advisory Services and Student Wellness Services. Medical and mental health/counselling supports are available through SWS, including access to counsellors embedded across campus.
Support is also available at the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, the Ban Righ Centre, and through Faith and Spiritual Life. Additionally, both the Alma Mater Society and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students offer peer support through the AMS Peer Support Centre and the Graduate Peer Support service, respectively.“
However, the creators of “Consent at Queen’s” say the stories show that Queen’s should take further action.
“There are the beginnings of good resources,” agrees Avis Kozar. “It’s just they aren’t enough right now.”
They would like to see the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office at Queen’s University expanded. They would also like to see a satellite office for the Sexual Assault Centre of Kingston set up on-campus, so the school could have a dedicated sexual assault centre.
Finally, the pair would also like to see university-wide mandatory consent training for staff, but especially for students, to be able to support their peers.
“Queen’s definitely has a role to keep their students safe and to make them comfortable on campus. This is not a new phenomenon, these numbers have been constant for years,” says Sieroka.
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