Content warning: sexual assault.
Both the allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by former VP External Affairs David Aird and the handling of these horrific situations by the Executive Team of Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) highlight the current oppression of women on campus.
On February 21, Community Disclosure Network (CDN) released a statement shining a horrific light on the allegations of sexual violence that Aird allegedly committed against members of McGill Against Austerity and McGill NDP. Aird, as VP External Affairs on SSMU, did not only commit a terrible crime against women, but he also allegedly committed these acts while in a position of power.
In CDN’s statement, they stated that survivors were not given the proper channels by SSMU to protect their anonymity if they wanted to testify against Aird. Sexual violence survivors should not be further hurt by being silenced out of fear of public backlash. Shame on SSMU for not ensuring anonymity.
SSMU needs to improve channels in which survivors can report their perpetrators, without making their names public. McGill NDP and McGill Against Austerity both did not seek formal retribution against Aird for harming their members because their survivors wished to remain anonymous.
I am still stunned after reading CDN’s statement, I and did not believe anything could make the situation worse, but the SSMU Executive Team devastatingly succeeded. In a statement released by the SSMU Executive Team, they admitted to knowing about these allegations. They let sexual violence be unpunished. They further victimized sexual violence survivors by not protecting them. They also announced that Aird resigned today, far too long after the first allegation in October.
It is also important to clarify that five out of six Execs on SSMU, not including Aird, are male. I’ve seen it again and again in politics and now at McGill: men are making decisions regarding the safety and health of women. This needs to change. A group made of mostly men should not be determining the punishment of a male who perpetrated violence against a female survivor.
If any of the Aird’s survivors read this: I’m sorry, you deserve better than this. Below is a list of some Montreal-based resources for survivors of sexualized/gendered violence:
SACOMSS: The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society is a volunteer-run organization committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and their allies through direct support, advocacy, and outreach. Their services include Drop-In and Line (DIAL), Support Groups, Advocacy, and Outreach. http://www.sacomss.org/wp/
McGill Peer Support Centre: The Peer Support Centre offers free, non-judgemental peer support, and can help direct you toward other available resources. http://ssmu.mcgill.ca/psc/
Office for Sexual Violence, Response, Support, and Education: Resource run through the Office of the Dean of Students; for active listening as well as for addressing complaints and facilitating disciplinary action. They have trained Sexual Assault Respondents available on campus.http://mcgill.ca/saap/
The Montréal Sexual Assault Centre: Offers a range of free services to anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, incest, as well as survivors’ family and friends. Services include medical, legal and/or individual therapy for 18+; listening, support and referral for all ages; and a toll-free 24/7 helpline for all. 1-800-933-9007 ; 514-934-4504 http://www.cvasm.org
Tel-Aide: 514-935-1101. Offers 24/7 free, anonymous, non-judgmental listening centre for people in distress in both English and French. http://www.telaide.org/en/
Nightline: A peer resource offering a confidential, anonymous and non-judgemental listening, run by McGill students. Services include active listening, resource referrals and crisis management. 514-398-6246. http://ssmu.mcgill.ca/nightline
CIRCLES, a community response and resource: “CIRCLES is a resource, a letter of solidarity to fellow survivors, and a reconstruction of what it means to heal collectively.” Includes in-depth listing of support services available. Email email@example.com for a pdf copy.