Why (Genuine) Support for the #MeToo Movement Should Be Extended to U of T
Chiara Brum Bozzi ASSOCIATE OPINIONS EDITOR
I previously wrote an article detailing the importance of advocating for individuals within an institution. Since then, I’ve had some time to think about how often the institutions I’m a part of — like the Catholic Church and my beloved University of Toronto (U of T) — fail to rise up in[TM1] critical moments to express support for those humiliated and abused by other members of our communities. So, I took it upon myself to do some ‘research,’ if you will, amongst my own small pool of 600 Twitter followers. This is what I learned.
I was thinking about how I never hear of sexual assault scandals at U of T. I never hear that U of T has removed a known or potential serial rapist. I had no reason to believe that U of T was miraculously excluded from the statistics surrounding campus sexual assault. So why does no one talk about it? Do I know anyone who knows of sexual misconduct on campus? To answer my questions, I created a small thread of polls asking the same question over again: “Have you, or anyone that you know, been sexually assaulted on the (insert Canadian university) campus?”
Among the respondents for the U of T question, nine people knew at least one person, two people knew at least three other people, and one person knew at least five other people. There were 33 respondents, and 12 of them know about 1.6 people, on average, who’ve been sexually assaulted on a U of T campus. That’s about 36% of people, in my broad social group, who’ve been sexually assaulted or know someone who has been. Now, I’m not a statistician. This is a very small sample of people in my wider social group. It’s possible that some of the survivors of sexual assault may be included more than once by multiple respondents who know that same survivor. What I do know, however, is that these numbers are real, and startling. This also means that U of T must match the data for other university campuses, that is, one out of every five women will be sexually assaulted on our campus.
Prior to investigating people within my own social circle, I put in a quick Google search for news on U of T. All the results consisted of strides in academic research and accomplishments for the university. Then I searched “U of T sexual assault” and up came a couple articles about the Silence is Violence advocacy group and nothing about actual sexual assault figures from the University of Toronto. Along with these search results came an article regarding the Ford government. In an attempt to access missing figures on sexual violence on our campus, Silence is Violence researchers found that U of T officials simply shifted the blame to the Ford government. Surprise, surprise. The data was collected in March of 2017. We are now more than halfway through February of 2019. That’s nearly two years. When asked why the data wasn’t released, a ministry spokesperson by the name of Tanya Blazina spoke of privacy concerns for the students involved in the survey. Can the university and the Ford government really compromise the privacy and the anonymity of students by releasing numbers? Surely not.
The frequency at which women experience threatening situations or actual sexual assault/rape is often disputed by rape apologists, despite there being an academic consensus regarding the frequency of sexual assault. It seems that some people only rely on science, statistics, and fact when it strengthens their argument. I don’t have the answers for deterring crime, but if a predator knows he can get away with raping a woman, especially a vulnerable woman, what is there to stop him if not his potentially non-existent conscience?
When I was little, my parents taught me to be honest. I lied. They taught me not to fight with my siblings. I fought. I was cruel, sometimes. Telling someone not to do something doesn’t necessarily work if the perpetrator knows the payoff for themselves will be worth the possibility of a small punishment. When I would lie, if convincingly enough, I would get what I wanted without consequence. If my parents did find out, the consequences wouldn’t be all that bad. A time-out. Maybe a reprimand. If I fought with my siblings, the blame would be divided between us. When a man decides to rape a woman, he is gauging the probability of consequence. When universities are indifferent toward the comfort and safety of their students (especially minorities), they create an environment of tolerance.
It seems that lack of acknowledgement and public support moves in tandem with how renowned or prestigious a school is. If someone damages the school’s reputation through complaining about student or staff conduct, the media attention may also jeopardize the millions of dollars in funding and donations given by wealthy alumni that keep the schools at the top of the academic research food chain. U of T is a research behemoth. What do you think university officials care more about: some displeased students with fears of humiliation in going public or millions of dollars in donations?
It is true that most women (that is, about five out of six for the general public and four out of five for post-secondary institutions) will not be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. However, six out of six are at risk of being. Don’t be afraid to use the momentum of #MeToo to tell perpetrators that Time’s Up.
With that I say: do better, U of T.