Jillian Giberson for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): To start off tell us a little about yourself! Where are you from? And what other organizations are you involved in on campus?
Erin McNeill (EM): I’m from Calgary AB! I’m in my fourth year of English Lit at McGill. I’m also involved with Kappa Kappa Gamma, Her Campus McGill, and up until this year, I was a volunteer and the last VP External for McGill’s Youth Outreach Program.
HC McGill: How did you bring It’s on Us to campus?
EM: The summer before last, someone had posted in Jobs & Internships about It’s On Us’ inaugural Campus Organizing Program and upon checking out the opportunity I saw that it was only open to American students, and decided to bring IOU to Canada. I applied saying I was from NYU but then emailed the director revealing how I’m actually a student from McGill and that Canadian colleges and campuses need to address sexual violence as well. In a purely serendipitous happening, Sam had just moved from Syracuse to McGill for grad school, and as an It’s On Us veteran she was able to help me start the first Canadian chapter here.
HC: And why did you decide to found the chapter?
EM: In regards to why I founded the chapter, it became clear to me that McGill needed another initiative to combat the lack of consent culture and survivor support after my first encounter with on-campus sexual violence. I would see my attacker most days as he lived in my residence, but I felt trapped, unsafe about reporting, and unsure if my experiences would even be seen as valid cases. I didn’t feel secure going to a group run by McGill’s administration because of the university’s previous failures to properly handle issues regarding sexual violence and supporting survivors, and I also felt that in going to them, my story would be taken out of my hands and scrutinized. There were no on-campus spaces I felt comfortable in or resources that were truly helpful, and I simply didn’t want other survivors to feel as lost.
As a confidante of several survivors and as a survivor myself, my peers and I felt that we were not being heard, believed, or supported by the university, and furthermore noticed that people in our McGill community were not only uneducated about the nuances of sexual assault and the advocacy work that surrounds it, but that they didn’t want to discuss it either – it was time for the student body as a whole to come together and address our culture as a collective, and be ever-present in our solidarity for survivors in a way that’s visible on campus.
HC: How has It’s on Us McGill grown over the past year?
EM: It’s On Us has grown a lot at McGill in the past year and it has made me incredibly happy to witness my friends and fellow students come together in action against sexual violence. Not only have we grown internally with our new executive team and general members, but through our outreach, we’ve been able to hold workshops and cultivate discussions with many more student groups across campus. On top of all that, IOU has diversified and coming from that we have gained so much more knowledge on how to best help and support McGill students from all backgrounds and with all experiences. The input we receive from the people that we work with is invaluable, and we always want to hear more ideas and ways that we can continue to grow in an accessible and inclusive manner.
HC: What exactly does It’s on Us McGill do on campus and where can people find the organization?
EM: On campus we run group workshops that we tailor to specific organizations/themes (MIR was writing about sexual violence, sororities have been more survivor support, frats more consent & active bystanding), hold our Week of Action once a semester, table for awareness/education, share and offer resources, hold fundraising & other events (Spin, GM self-care, Panhel study rooms, survivor love letters), we like to do social media campaigns for awareness also, etc. The general public is invited to come to General Member meetings & find us tabling, people are always welcome to reach out to us via email or any social media (FB & Insta), we’ve created a listserv to update and reach out weekly to students.