What’s Going On At uOttawa?

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Five student leaders made sexually threatening statements towards and suggested that Anne-Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, has sexually transmitted infections.

From Diane Mehta’s March 2nd article in the Globe and Mail:

A student union leader at the University of Ottawa says an online conversation among five fellow students in which she was the target of sexually graphic banter shows that “rape culture” is all too prevalent on Canadian campuses.

Anne-Marie Roy, 24, is going public despite being threatened with legal action by four of the male students, who say the Facebook conversation was private.

“They should be held accountable for those actions. Actions have consequences and I think that this is certainly something that can’t go unnoticed,” said Roy, who heads the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa.

“Rape culture is very present on our campuses … I think that it’s very shameful to see that there are student leaders who are perpetuating that within their own circles.”

Anne Thériault wrote about it on her blog The Belle Jar:

This is the type of thing that’s said about women in positions of power — not a critique of their policies, but a threat of sexual violence. Not a comment on how they do their job, but graphic fantasies about how they should be sexually degraded. Nothing about their intelligence or capability, just a string of jokes about how riddled with venereal disease they are. This is misogyny, pure and simple. This is slut-shaming. This is rape culture.

The four of the male students who made the sexual threats online who have student leadership positions have resigned, but some of the students have threatened Anne-Marie Roy with legal action for coming forward with their comments:

Her plan was to distribute copies of the conversation to the board’s members while asking the board to move a motion to “condemn” those who engaged in the discussion, two of whom were board members. The other three were involved with organizing campus events.

After learning of Roy’s plan, four of the five individuals sent her a letter warning her that the conversation was a private one and that sharing it with others would amount to a violation of their rights.

After consulting with a lawyer, Roy chose to go ahead with sharing the conversation with the board, but received a cease and desist letter during the board meeting.

The letter — which identifies the four participants as Michel Fournier-Simard, Alexandre Giroux, Alexandre Larochelle and Robert-Marc Tremblay — threatened legal action against Roy if she did not “destroy” her copy of the online conversation and stop sharing it with others.

One of the students involved in the sexual threats, Alexandre Larochelle, is the son of Kingston Chief of Police Gilles Larochelle.

On Monday, March 3rd, we found out that the University of Ottawa’s hockey team has been suspended while some of their players are being investigated by the Thunder Bay police for sexual assault:

In the more recent case, it was a friend of the alleged victim who notified uOttawa’s administration, who then told Thunder Bay police.

Lakehead University’s communications director told the Citizen on Tuesday that Thunder Bay police had informed the school’s administration about the ongoing investigation after they received the information from the University of Ottawa, namely to tell them that none of the players on the Lakehead hockey team, the Thunderwolves, was involved.

Toby Goodfellow said the school would be sending out internal emails to all students reminding them that health and counselling services are available and are confidential.

Thunder Bay police said the alleged victim, whom they made contact with after following up with her friend who made the allegation, is co-operating with police.

Ottawa police will be assisting that investigation, which Thunder Bay police said is in its early stages, but have not yet conducted any interviews with members of the U of O hockey team. Chris Adams, spokesman for Thunder Bay police, said investigators will be looking to speak to “a number of individuals.”

Activists are reminding folks that sexually threatening women in power and sports teams being accused of sexually assaulting university students is not just a problem on uOttawa’s campus but a widespread problem of a pervasive rape culture:

“When members of student council can make threats of rape against a president and they’re not even denying those comments — they say they’re joking, that it’s just normal guy talk — I think that speaks to a systemic problem,” Lalonde said.

Julia Kacmarek and Elizabeth Geffre wrote a series of articles for Huffington Post about rape culture on university campuses:

“Everywhere you turn there’s condoning, trivializing, and eroticizing rape, and collectively it sets a tone that says this is no big deal or this is what women deserve,” said Lynn Phillips, a Lecturer with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Communication Department.

The language of rape culture exists in everyday conversation.

“I raped that test,” is a phrase that has become commonplace, connoting a sense of accomplishment. “You might ‘rape’ somebody you’re playing against which means you won really easily against them,” said Mike Angelli, a UMass student.

And, there is an endless amount of “joking” about rape occurring in cyberspace.

Sarah J. Argiero, Jessica  L. Dyrdahl, Sarah  S. Fernandez,  Laura  E. Whitney,  and Robert J. Woodring wrote A  Cultural  Perspective  for  Understanding How  Campus  Environments  Perpetuate Rape:


Our  findings  indicate  the  existence  of  rape supportive  culture through  male  controlled  environments,  use  of  women  as  entertainment,  influence  of interactions between  men,  and  the  desensitization  of  sex.
Lastly, although it’s been in the news a lot lately, did you know that the phrase ‘rape culture’ was coined in the 1970’s?
— compiled by erin
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