The University of Western Ontario is in shock after a first-year student died of his injuries in a morning assault and police launched a separate investigation into social media reports. young women drugged and sexually abused in a university residence.
Gabriel Neil, 18, died in hospital on Sunday after an assault on Saturday morning near the London, Ont. Campus. A 21-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter. In an email Monday, a London Police spokesperson said the assault was not linked to allegations of sexual violence at a campus residence over the weekend.
Allegations of sexual violence during a Friday night rally at Medway-Sydenham Hall, a student residence on campus, have circulated on TikTok and Twitter in recent days. Western administrators and London police said they had not received any reports of such incidents and called on people to provide information.
London Police said they were aware of information circulating on social media and that due to the seriousness of the allegations they had opened an investigation. Since the students returned to campus last week, Western said it had received four complaints of sexual violence. None are believed to be connected, nor linked to the allegations that arose this weekend from Medway-Sydenham Hall.
In recent years, efforts to end sexual violence on campus have come to light, as research has shown college-aged women to be at high risk of assault, especially in the first few weeks after arriving. on the campus.
Chris Alleyne, acting assistant vice president for student experience at Western, said the university was “troubled and concerned” by reports over the weekend of alleged assaults.
“We are working very hard to clarify and confirm the information. But so far we have received very little information regarding these reports. So we ask our students and the campus community to provide all the details, ”Alleyne said in an interview, adding that the university is committed to working with the police.
The allegations were first brought to the attention of university officials via rumors gathered by staff at the campus residence on Saturday, Mr Alleyne said. That same evening, an employee emailed the students in residence asking for people to come forward, offering help and wanting to make sure anyone injured could ask for help.
Those efforts continued on Monday, but the university still had not received a response to its request for information on the alleged incidents. The university said it had tightened security at the residences and had counselors, including gender-based violence experts, on site to help students.
Mr Alleyne said in a statement that Western had taken swift action in response to the four known complaints of sexual violence from last week, “including facilitating the arrest and removal of students from the residence while investigations continue.”
The news of the inquiries underscored the importance of consent work and education before students reach college or university campuses, said Farrah Khan, co-director of Courage to Act, a national project to combat and to prevent gender-based violence in post-secondary institutions in Canada. .
Over the past few years, Ms Khan says there has been a dramatic shift in terms of colleges and universities recognizing the need to address sexual violence on their campuses. But she says those efforts – whether dedicated offices or mandatory training – remain uneven across the country.
“Universities and colleges can do better and should do better. But we also prepare students for failure by not giving them a full education on sexual health, relationships and consent throughout elementary and secondary school, ”she said.
Especially given the risk of violence faced by students during the first weeks of life at a post-secondary institution, Khan stresses that work needs to start much sooner.
“What are we doing to educate them so that they are ready? ” she said.
A Statistics Canada report found that in 2019, just over one in 10 women at a Canadian post-secondary institution reported being assaulted in a single year. More than 70 percent have witnessed or experienced unwanted sexual behavior, according to the report.
Mr Alleyne said sexual violence will never be tolerated at Western.
He said that as part of the university’s commitment to a safe campus, it held sexual violence education and prevention programs with new freshmen last week, including programs on consent, healthy relationships and rape culture. Student residence staff and other student leaders are also trained on the university’s policy on sexual and gender-based violence and how to refer students to the appropriate services in the event of a complaint.
Lauryn Bikos, a third-year student at Western and head of guidance, said on Twitter that the weekend’s events had a terrible impact on the campus community. Many other students echoed his point of view.
“I walked the students home on Friday night to Med Syd. I thought I was taking them to a safe place. I don’t even want to think about the number of students who no longer feel safe in their rooms and who have started this new chapter in their lives with fear and trauma, ”Ms. Bikos said.
Other students on social media mentioned feeling unsafe on campus.
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