Trigger Warning: The following blog piece addresses a topic shedding light on a recent sexual assault event that occurred on the Ryerson University Campus in Toronto, Ontario. The intent of this article is to raise awareness about sexual assault, share safety tips, and ultimately let survivors know they are not alone and that occurrences like this are not their fault.
A phrase young girls and women hear too often and on too many occasions, “you can’t go there alone.” On March 24th, 2022, some of us at Ryerson University were notified of a sexual assault that occurred on campus in a Kerr Hall female restroom during school hours, through word of mouth, on Instagram and/or WhatsApp group chats - and some of you may be hearing of this for the first time as you read my blog post today. It breaks my heart to say this but this isn't the first time BoostHER has written a blog like this. Nearly 5 months ago, BoostHER Western created a post called “OneLove Western,” addressing a sexual assault that occurred in one of the residence buildings at their university, and 1 year ago another Blog Writer at BoostHER Western wrote a blog piece regarding Violence Against Women. This is a blog piece that I never wished to write about, a blog piece that should never have to be written about ever again! I know I speak for the entire BoostHER community here at the Ryerson, and Western University when I say that I am extremely saddened, disgusted, and horrified from the occurrence of this event. Truthfully, I am at a loss for words; my heart is with the victim of this event - a fellow Ryerson colleague.
It's unfortunate that we must always go back to these same safety tips time and time again throughout our lives as women, but it is important that we keep them in mind to be cautious of our safety and security on and off campus.
1) Study With a Buddy: I know this isn't always possible, so if you have no other choice but to study on campus alone, at the bare minimum, make sure you are in a visible space; never be in a secluded area. 2) Go to the Restroom with a Friend or Group of Friends: If this isn't an option for you, ensure someone knows where you are at all times, and/or share your location with a trusted friend. 3) Make use of the RyersonSafe App: The RyersonSafe App is an application that you can download via the Apple Store or Microsoft Store that gives you access to a wide variety of the school's safety initiatives. On the app, you can gain access to:
“Emergency Contacts,” including 911, Ryerson Security 24/7 phone number (416-979-5040), Ryerson Security email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Non-emergency Toronto Police Services Line phone number.
“Emergency Procedures,” a resource to help you proactively plan for rare but possible emergencies.
“Support Services,” including Aboriginal Student Services, Centre for Women and Trans People, Consent Comes First, Employee and Family Assistance Program, Housing and Residence Life, Human Rights Services, Medical Centre, Student Development & Counselling, RSU Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line, and other helpful external resources.
“Personal Safety,” including Conducting Safe Meetings, Criminal Harassment & Stalking, Online Personal Safety & Robbery Prevention, and Sexual Violence, Assault & Harassment.
“Campus Map,” A feature allowing you to directly connect your current location with the RyersonSafe App, to track your location and help you safely navigate the Ryerson Campus.
“WalkSafe,” A 24/7 service that pairs you with a uniformed Ryerson University security member, to escort you to and from campus (including nearby subway stations and parking areas). All you have to do is call WalkSafe directly through the app or send them a quick email.
While keeping all the safety tips mentioned above in mind when you are on or off campus, as so eloquently said by one of our Blog Writers from BoostHER Western, “It is equally important that we educate people on what consent looks like, what a toxic relationship may look like, warning signs, etc. We cannot put the responsibility in the sole hands of the survivor because this is not their fault, nor will it ever be. As a community, we must do better. We must educate to prevent these terrible occurrences, rather than trying to heal the repercussions after acts of violence have already been committed. It is more important now than ever before to make sure that we amplify our voices and make ourselves heard as we demand change.” - Rianna Spence.
After discussing the March 24th, 2022, sexual assault occurrence with my fellow team members at BoostHER RU, here is what some of them had to say regarding my interview question: “In a few words, please describe any feelings that were evoked as a result of this event, any words you would like to say to the victim, and/or any expression at all that you would like to state.”
Irum M. “I heard about this sickening event occurring at Kerr Hall and instantly felt so anxious about returning to school. I think because I was still in this blanket of high school where people were always around me, I never thought of any school facility being a threat to my safety. So, I have probably gone to the bathroom by myself a few times, leaving my phone or bag outside with a friend. After this shocking incident, I don't know how to feel about my safety and the safety of other women and people on campus. It's easy to say that at the end of the day, the offender was caught, but what about the poor woman who has to live with the trauma of this offense for the rest of her life? What about the school who doesn't notify all of its students about offenses that happen on their property? What about the countless other victims of violence and assault on campus that live with the injustices against them in fear? I truly do not know how to feel about this horrendous event and hope and pray for the safety of every person on campus, no matter where they go, who they go with, or what they do there. EVERYONE should feel safe in the Ryerson community at ALL times.”
Malika H. “It saddens me that I need to warn my friends to go in groups to the bathroom or only go to popular bathrooms on campus because it isn't safe. Everyone should feel safe on campus but now I cannot even go to the bathroom without being scared something might happen to me.”
Devanshi A. “How disgusting do you have to be to not only violate someone, but also pre-plan it? It’s scary to think that student could have been any one of us. As women, we rarely feel fully safe anywhere. University is a place we come to learn, and therefore expect it to be a safe environment for us to do so. The washroom, of all places, should be a safe area. It’s a private space that you share with other women. And yet to hear of the sexual assault that occurred in a women’s washroom on campus is angering. If we’re not safe in the washrooms, then how unsafe are we in classrooms and hallways? The university has failed its female students. There are so many cameras in the halls, so why wasn’t anyone notified when a man was seen walking into a women’s washroom? I understand there aren’t cameras in the washroom, but there are cameras outside washrooms that must’ve caught him. The university must do better to ensure this is a safe learning environment. Mandatory classes should be enforced for everyone to learn about consent, and that it is not right to violate others under any circumstances. Protocols should be put in place, and cameras should be better monitored. Something must be done, and the university needs to take responsibility.”
Anonymous Statement: “When I heard the news about this horrific event, I was deeply disgusted and shocked. It's truly sad that a situation like this even happened. You expect that a school environment would be safe and secure for everyone to comfortably attend, but then a situation like this occurs and it leaves you questioning the safety of the environment students are spending their most time at. I pray for healing and a strong recovery for the victim of this awful attack. I want them to know that their voice is heard and we as a community are here to comfort and help them along the way.”
In the comment section below, please feel free to add any other safety tips, advice, or numbers to helplines/crisis lines for sexual assault victims and anyone else affected by the occurences of this or other events. We must continue to support our community and raise awareness regarding horrific events as such, so please use the shareable link at the bottom of this post to share this within your community. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, sexual harassment, or sexual assault, please speak up and let someone know (Ontario residents can call 211 or 1-866-863-0511 for support regarding sexual violence experiences). You are not alone, and it was not your fault. To the survivor of the March 24th, 2022, sexual assault at Kerr Hall Ryerson University, from all of us here at BoostHER and the Toronto community at large, we stand with you.
- XOXO BoostHER