Get Uncomfortable

I am not controversial and hardly confrontational. Don’t get me wrong, I speak when I feel my voice needs to be heard and I don’t shy away from a fight. But I won’t storm in brazenly ready to start a revolution. What I want is to start a conversation.

Specifically, a conversation about sexual violence. I’d like to say that I’m sorry you feel uncomfortable talking about sexual assault or that you’re uncomfortable with the extreme nature of these conversations. But frankly, I’m not. You should be uncomfortable because fearing or experiencing sexual harassment is uncomfortable. And I’d like to say that I’m sorry that you have to experience the vulnerability of those recounting their assaults. But I’m not because this discomfort is only a fraction of what many women deal with daily. Continue reading

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On Sexual Assault, Awareness, and #TriggerWarnings

Talking about sexual assault was difficult. Listening to someone talk to us about sexual assault was probably even harder. Last year, sexual assault awareness week was about breaking silence. About giving people the opportunity to talk.

But then the talking stopped. We had our week, and when it ended, so did the conversation.

So this year, the week has evolved. It’s not just about breaking the silence. It’s about how we break the silence. It’s about how we do that during the week, but also how we do it through the other 51 weeks of the year too.

And yes, each of these events comes with a selection of trigger warnings. And I believe in giving them freely. Because I understand what a trigger warning really means. Continue reading

#breakthesilence

We want to hear from you. Last year, we asked why you think it is important to #breakthesilence around sexual assault. This year we’re curious about how you can #breakthesilence. Participate in a photo shoot on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 to #breakthesilence. Sign up here. The pictures will be posted at the law school as part of the #breakthesilence campaign during Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

2014 #BreaktheSilence Participants Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Windsor Law begins on March 16, 2015.

Monday, March 16 12:00 “No Means No” Workshop Hosted by LEAF
Tuesday, March 17 12:00 “Vagina Workshop” – A Conversation About Healthy Sex and Knowing Yourself Hosted by Vagina Monologues
Wednesday, March 18 12:00 Speakers Event Hosted by Women & The Law
8:00 Sex Ed Trivia Night Hosted by LSRJ
Thursday, March 19 12:00 Movie Day!
Friday, March 20 Movie Night at Portofino, Hosted by LSRJ
Monday, March 23 4:30 LSRJ Speakers Event: Catholics for Choice

To the Lawyer Who Called Me a ‘Good Girl’

Editors note: you may have noticed that this piece disappeared for a period of time. This is because the anonymity of the piece was breached, such that the author experienced professional (and personal) push back.

After some time and further consideration, it is the authors view that the only way forward is to continue to confront these issues head on. The point of the piece is not to single out a particular person but to demonstrate the barriers young women (continue) to face in the profession. The decision to take the blog down and re-post it has not been easy. The author fears however that if she waits for a time when her career path is more permanent, her law school debt is paid off (#lol) and she has a network of people who know and understand that she values integrity and strives to act ethically  – the time will have passed.

The  thing is, there is never a ‘safe time’ to challenge the status quo. Permanence, stability and security are fictions if they come at the cost of sacrificing what she believes is the ‘right thing’ for a future that requires tacit acceptance of conduct that makes people feel inferior, and un-safe.

I think we are all under this illusion that things will get easier but do they? The author understand that for some women silence is a survival too and she is not critical of this or  the women who came before her. The author is  not critical of women or men who think this is an in appropriate venue to express this type of   opinion. She is not even critical of people who advised her  to take the blog down. They had her  professional interest at heart. We don’t  however, have to agree.

What   the author cannot accept is that women, to be effective lawyers must be above this type of conduct. What she cannot accept is that strong ethics, integrity and good judgment are in-congruent with the views expressed in this blog. Perhaps you know who she is reader but make no mistake she could be any aspiring lawyer in any city, in an jurisdiction in any province in this country – and that’s the point.

In solidarity and support of the F word in certain situations like the one described in this blog. Continue reading

We’ve Only Just Begun: A Reflection on Margaret Wente

Margaret Wente says that our attitudes towards sexual harassment have already changed (Globe & Mail, Friday November 22, 2014). She argues in a recent column that attitudes towards sexual violence and harassment are very different and much better now than when she was younger – in the workplace, on the street, and in the general culture.

I am extremely pleased about the recent attention that some remarkable journalism has brought to sexual predators in the entertainment industry and on university campuses. A conversation has started to take place about sexual violence, consent and rape culture – in the press, on-line, around the water cooler at work, in our homes – that is more open, acknowledging and based on facts (such as the 2-4% false allegation rate reported by law enforcement agencies in North America and the UK) than ever before. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

But I have to say to Ms Wente – you are significantly overstating the change in our culture. We are moving forward, yes, but we still have an awfully long way to go before we can begin to talk about real change – before the experiences of individuals who report and seek redress for rape, sexual assault and harassment become different in a meaningful way.

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A Request

Following a three month investigation, the Toronto Star today published the first story in a series on the widespread failure of Canadian universities and colleges to address the rape culture on campus and to provide practical, accessible, non-blaming supports and redress to victims of sexual assault, harassment and rape.
This Blog was originally started as a way to call down this rape culture, and to provide a space for discussion among those harmed by and angry about it – to “break the silence”.
We posted a request for women to come forward and speak – off the record if they desired and with anonymity – with the Star reporter, Emily Matheiu, some months ago. We are reposting this request and Emily’s contact information below today. The first story today features some incredibly brave women whom we salute for their courage in speaking up. If you have a story to tell about your experience at Windsor Law or anywhere else, please consider being one of the widely expected flood of women whom I fervently hope this story will inspire to break their silence.
If you feel that you would like to have a private conversation with me before contacting the Star, please feel welcome to do so (julie.macfarlane@uwindsor.ca). I have spoken and met with this reporter many times in the past three months and feel very comfortable recommending her.
Request from the Star

My name is Emily Mathieu and I’m an investigative reporter at the Toronto Star. My colleague, Jayme Poisson, and I have been following news in the U.S. about over 50 universities and colleges now under investigation for possible federal violations of their handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints by their students.

We are now researching how universities and colleges in Canada are handling complaints of sexual violence and harassment.

A recent request for information about sexual violence complaints to Ontario’s ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities resulted in information from Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan, including “issues and recommendations from survivor consultations.”

The consultation participants who described experiencing sexual violence on campus noted that universities did not give proper follow-up and that consequences for assailants were not pursued by administrative bodies.  One survivor said that she felt the administrative body looking into her complaint was “biased, and relied on myths about rape in their judgment of the case. She stated that the administration attempted to find fault in her credibility based on her mental health status, rather than investigating the case in an unbiased manner.”

As part of our research we are now looking at:
1.     Policies of individual schools across the country
2.     Individual stories from survivors of how universities and colleges may have either supported them or were unhelpful when dealing with their complaint.

Please feel free to contact me if you are:
·       A sexual assault support worker familiar with these issues interested to share your thoughts
·       Involved in a campus/university workgroup or project addressing sexual assault
·       A survivor of sexual violence on campus who is interested to share some or all of their story
·       On or “off the record” conversations welcome!

You can reach us at:

Emily Mathieu
Reporter, the Toronto Star
emathieu@thestar.ca
Desk phone (416) 869-4896
Cell phone (647) 236-4860

Jayme Poisson
Reporter, the Toronto Star
jpoisson@thestar.ca
Desk phone (416) 814-2725
Cell phone (647) 242-7862

Sincerely,

Emily and Jayme

Be Better: A Quick Discussion on Consciousness-Raising, Rape, and Our Own Social Realities

My day today was largely the same as any other in the life of a law student. I woke up at a seemingly ungodly hour (8:30 a.m.), I attempted to combat my student debt by making and bringing my own lunch to school, and I attended a few law classes. You know, did the things I need to do to get my law degree.

The only really notable part of my day happened after I battled the bitter cold outside on my walk home from school. I arrived into my pleasantly heated apartment, and sat down to eat dinner and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Nashville Predators. The Leafs, who one hoped would bounce back from their 6-2 embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Sabres last Saturday, came out with a pitifully slow start and left the ACC ice with all of 2 goals to show for themselves. Their opponents? 9.

During the game, I was on my computer, Facebook chatting with a group of friends about the Leaf’s play, how soon we thought Randy Carlyle would be fired, and funny Buzzfeed articles, among other things.

By the time the game was over, my newsfeed was crammed with comments and links about the Leaf’s pathetic performance. While scanning through some comments and status updates, I realized that parallels were being drawn between the Leaf’s performance on the ice, and rape. Yes, you read that correctly – rape. In essence, many comments suggested that the “Leaf’s got raped by the Nashville Predators” tonight.

Continue reading