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SMU isn’t alone in rape culture, rally organizers say

by Hilary Beaumont

About 110 people attended the rally at SMU. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
About 110 people attended the rally at SMU. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

Saint Mary’s University isn’t alone in rape culture, students, admin and faculty heard at a rally Thursday.

“We are the quiet, the ones who drop out of classes because our rapist is sitting beside us,” El Jones read over the microphone.

About 110 people gathered in the outdoor atrium. Students wove through the crowd, heading for class. Some stopped to listen.

SMU got caught, Halifax’s Poet Laureate said, but its students aren’t the only ones who have cheered rape.

An Instagram video posted Sept. 2 showed SMU frosh leaders chanting, “Y is for Your sister, O is for Oh so tight, U is for Underage, N is for No consent, G is for Grab that ass.”

Frosh leaders cheered similar words at the University of British Columbia. Both campuses have repeated the chants for years.

After local media publicized the SMU chant, all 80 frosh leaders were told to attend sensitivity training, the university promised to conduct a review and SMUSA president Jared Perry, who participated in the chant, stepped down.

The actions of UBC and SMU frosh leaders were symptoms of a wider culture, rally organizers told the crowd.

“Rape culture is defined as attitudes, behaviors, messages, language, laws, media and other everyday phenomena that promote sexual violence,” SMU Women’s Centre coordinator Jasmine Bhomia said. “It is prevalent throughout society.”

The centre has presented SMU with a list of requests to promote equality on campus, including a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault on campus, sensitivity training for frosh leaders and a sexual assault counselor, she said.

SMU graduate Alleson Kase attended the rally after hearing what she thought was an inadequate response from university admin and frosh leaders.

She held a sign that read: “Frosh week 2013 demeans my SMU degree.”

“Forty years ago, [the chant] may have been par for the course, but in 2013, that’s totally reprehensible.”

Neil Matheson attended the rally because his friend was raped.

When she was 14, she was drinking with a guy and she passed out.

“He just thought that it was OK. He bought her a quart of whiskey—of course they were going to fuck later.”

It ruined her life, Matheson said. “She’s been this broken, damaged person since then.”

Men can help by standing up to rape culture, he said.

“Men act like they’re part of this secret club. They’ll nudge each other and wink when a chick goes by, and make comments that they assume other men understand, but no, that’s not OK.”

“Real men treat women with respect,” he said. “Real men don’t rape.”

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Topics: Education
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