In light of recent events at the University of Ottawa, the Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association would like to reaffirm its commitment to opposing rape culture on campus.

It has recently been uncovered that five male students exchanged violent, sexually explicit comments over social media that involve the president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), the undergraduate student union. These comments were made by men in positions of leadership in some of the university’s academic associations, as well as one executive member of the SFUO, all of whom have since announced their resignations. There have also been allegations of the men’s hockey team at the University of Ottawa committing sexually violent acts while representing the school.

We think it is important to acknowledge that rape culture is prevalent on campuses across the country. Rape culture is present when sexual violence is promoted through speech, actions, attitudes, or behaviours. Rape culture not only creates an unsafe environment for women, trans, and non-binary individuals to work and live in, but it also furthers attitudes of complicity in sexual violence.

Recent events including the pro-rape chants during the frosh weeks of Saint Mary’s University and the University of British Columbia, the concert booking of Rick Ross, whose lyrics perpetuate rape culture, by the Carleton University Undergraduate Student Association (CUSA), and the violent, sexually-explicit comments made by student leaders at the University of Ottawa. These events have all shown that rape culture continues to be normalized on our campuses and that sexual violence is still a very real concern for students.

We think it is important to acknowledge the high rates of sexual violence on campuses across North America, and to think about the ways in which places of learning are also increasingly becoming places where sexually violent acts are occurring. We think it is important to fight back against the culture that is allowing our universities to be unsafe spaces. We also think it is important that university administrations support students in responding to sexual violence and ending rape culture on our campuses.

The GSA denounces the social media comments made and extends our solidarity to Anne-Marie Roy, the president of the SFUO. We support her in bringing forward the sexually violent comments made against her, and in bringing to light the ways in which threats of sexual violence are a tool used to disempower woman-identifying leaders, to keep individuals who identify as women subordinate, to silence them, and to debase them. We recognize that threatening sexual violence towards leaders who identify as women is not only damaging to the individuals being threatened, but that it also contributes to a culture of fear and misogyny that prevents other individuals from feeling comfortable and safe taking leadership positions. We acknowledge that these types of attitudes have no place on our campuses.

We also acknowledge that there are individuals on our campuses who experience threats and/or acts of sexual violence who do not have the forums and power to bring them forward and encourage public response, and to those individuals we offer our solidarity and support as well.

The GSA extends its support to those affected by rape culture and calls on both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University administrations to work with our student unions to challenge rape culture on our campuses.