I am haphazardly putting this blog post together in response to the multiple sexual assaults happening on the UBC campus this weekend and over the past few weeks. To be short, I am feeling ashamed right now to be a member of a campus community that is doing so little to help stop these incidents from repeating. Let me explain.
Sexual assaults happen on university campuses all over the world. Unfortunately, they are an inevitable crime. But not in my 4 years at UBC have I experienced this kind of string of assaults. Young girls are being dragged into bushes in the middle of the night while walking alone. At least 3, now today a fourth, have become public knowledge.
A Ubyssey article today made an interesting comparison between the University’s response to the Sauder School rape chants and these ongoing assaults. Summed up, the response to rape chants quickly resulted in press conferences and a “Systemic Response to Rape and Sexual Assault” , while the response to these later sexual assaults consisted of a warning to women to not walk alone at night.
Granted, it is generally a good idea not to walk alone at night on campus, especially when there is a known attacker in the midst, but that is not all that can be done to stop these attacks. For one, the “Blue Phones” on campus, used as an emergency phone system in case of an assault, need to be maintained and less sparse. Several people on Twitter have been commenting on how many around campus display “out-of-order” signs. When tension is running high on campus, expedient effort could be used to put these phones back in working order.
Secondly, it is not helpful to tell students to be more “vigilant” or “careful”. As a woman, I am constantly told to not walk alone at night. This has instilled an inherent fear in me of walking in the dark alone. I live in the close vicinity of forests and parks and often have to pass through them coming home at night to get from the bus stop to my house. The five-minute walk always has me on high alert, and to be honest I have often thought about what I might do if someone jumps out at me. But this is a rare case. Many young women, especially those new to campus, expect to come to a safe place. They expect that the RCMP and Campus Security will be protecting them at all costs. I should not have to have a friend walk me to my car in the parkade after dark. That should not be necessary.
What frustrates me the most is the blatant and uneducated victim blaming that is occurring all over social media at the moment. One tweet I came across went as such: “I can’t even with the stupidity of these people. It’s 3am, you’re walking around alone. You’re just asking for it.” Another: “R U SRS, I THOUGHT PEOPLE HERE WERE SMART.” Because someone walks alone at night does not mean they are asking to be assaulted. Those people are also not dumb. Not as dumb as this commentator at least. Statements such as those basically support the attacker and reinforce an archaic societal belief that the assailant is not at fault if the opportunity to assault is presented to them. Surprise! Men are not dogs. They can control themselves when something appealing is put in front of them. At least most of them can. Telling women to smarten up and be more careful at night will not fix this problem.
I have not personally seen any increase in security on campus since these attacks began to escalate. If ever, now is time to pull out the big guns, UBC.