Thousands rally at Western University to protest sexual violence
Hundreds of Western University students walked out of class Friday as thousands marched on campus to protest sexual violence on and around the campus.
Students, dressed in teal, chanted, "Stop this violence. No more silence," as they marched from Medway-Sydenham Hall and other residences to join the rally.
Some signs in the crowd read "Protect us, not your reputation," "Denial is not a defense," "I believe you, I stand by survivors" and "Will I be next?"
“The incidents of the past week, and you being here today, tell us that you do not feel safe," said Terry McQuad, Director of Wellness and Well Being at Western University. "The university has updated its gender-based violence policy, May 2020, to better reflect and make transparent the process for getting support and filing a complaint.”
Campus police told CTV News, they estimated the gathering of staff and students to be around 8,000 people.
Students were showing their support for survivors of sexual violence and also pushing for change in the way the school handles reports of sexual assault.
Teigan Elliott, who says she witnessed the allegged incidents the night of Sept. 10 outside residence, tearfully spoke at the rally.
“Alan Shepard [Western University President], do you know what it’s like to be unsafe? Not just feel unsafe, but be unsafe where you live? do you know what it’s like to walk past the site of the most traumatic experience of your life every day just to get to class? If your answer is no to either one of those questions, then I don’t want to hear another word from you about safety.”
The walkout comes after an investigation was launched into allegations of up to 30 drug-related sexual assaults at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during orientation week.According to London police there have been no formal reports made in regards to the allegations.
However, police have confirmed they were already investigating three reports of sexual violence since the start of the semester; but those reports are not related to the residence allegations.
Co-organizers of the rally call Western's announcement of an action plan on Thursday a first step, but say more needs to be done.
In unveiling the new Action Plan on Sexual Violence, Western President Alan Shepard said: “We let our students and families down.”
Among the new measures is a requirement to have all students living in residence take in-person training on sexual violence, consent and personal safety.
Details on the new Action Plan can be found here.
Western and all its affiliate colleges have spoken in support of the walkout, and encouraged students and faculty to attend.