September 29, 2009
OTTAWA—Carleton University students and the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre are outraged by the latest known sexual assault on campus. Carleton University Campus Safety has released information regarding an assault that occurred near residence on September 25th, 2009 in which a woman was “struck in the face and groped by an unknown male”. Posters have been put up around campus reporting the incident. The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre questions why the information describes a sexual assault but labels the incident as an “assault” only. “The information we have clearly speaks of a sexual assault and yet the University has labelled it otherwise. This isn’t an issue of semantics but of misleading information” says Julie Lalonde, coordinator of the Coalition.
The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre was formed in 2007 after a high-profile sexual assault on campus exposed the lack of adequate support services. After a three-year campaign for increased services, students at Carleton University are still waiting for a centre, for which over 80% of students voted in favour in a 2008 referendum. The campaign reached a fever pitch this past summer when the survivor of the high-profile sexual assault filed a lawsuit against the University. In its statement of defence, Carleton argued that the woman, "failed to take appropriate or any action for her own safety". Harsh criticism from students, alumni and advocates across the country prompted the University to settle with the plaintiff. However, a Sexual Assault Centre remains to be seen on campus and students continue to demand one.
“This latest assault is further evidence that sexual assault and sexual violence, particularly against women, continues to happen at Carleton and that what the University has done is not working” adds Lalonde. “The official acknowledgement of sexual assault remains taboo on campus and the use of the term ‘assault’ rather than ‘sexual assault’ demonstrates this. The labelling of incidences on campus is shrouded in politics. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go at Carleton.”