Some Windsorites at this year's Take Back the Night reflect on sexual assaults reported in London

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Keaton McNames and Amber Thibert (right), both University of Windsor alumnae, were at Thursday's Take Back the Night event.  (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Keaton McNames and Amber Thibert (right), both University of Windsor alumnae, were at Thursday's Take Back the Night event. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

"Whose streets?"

"Our streets!" Responded dozens of Windsorites in Charles Clark Square Thursday night.

Many people gathered together for the annual Take Back the Night event, an initiative that aims to end sexual assault and domestic violence

People in the crowd came for their own personal experiences or to show allyship.

Part of the conversation Thursday was around the reported sexual assault cases at Western University in London, Ont., which took place earlier this week. An official with the university said Monday that arrests were made in separate incidents after four students reported being sexually assaulted in the past week.

Amber Thibert, a University of Windsor alumna who was at the Take Back the Night event, said the cases in London are probably "on a lot of people's minds right now."

"It's really upsetting that in 2021 that we still have to have these events that we still have to push for safety at night for women and people from the LGBTQ community," Thibert said.

"It's just crazy that we're still here doing this every year and it's still so relevant especially with what's going on right now in London."

She says the student body at Western University needs to show its support for one another and start "having hard conversations."

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

Keaton McNames, who also graduated from UWindsor and attended Take Back the Night, says she never felt comfortable walking on the campus at night.

"As you a student you never feel completely protected ... but it'd be great if one day that wasn't something we had to worry about," she said.

The Ontario government said Thursday that it has given post-secondary schools until March 2022 to update their policies with provisions that ensure those reporting sexual violence aren't asked "irrelevant" questions about their sexual history, and so students who do report don't get in trouble if they've violated the school's alcohol or drug policies.

UWindsor launches new campaign

University of Windsor's sexual violence education specialist Anne Rudzinski told CBC News Thursday that the school updates its policies every three years and was due for a new one.

She says what the government is asking for is likely "not far outside" what they'd be doing to change their policy and notes that there is always evolving guidance on this issue.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

Following the incidents reported at Western University, Rudzinski said there is concern and sadness.

She says orientation week is a "high-risk time for sexual violence" — a reason why her office tries to make itself visible at many events.

"Every year as we go into orientation week we're kind of expecting there to be a potential spike [in sexual violence," she said.

The reason for this possible violence, according to Rudzinski is for a number of reasons, including:

  • Students are new on-campus and in a new environment.

  • Students are meeting new peer groups and spending time with new people.

  • There are lots of events during orientation week that might involve alcohol.

"We're making sure our resources are front and centre, especially as we're all kind of processing and thinking about that news coming out of London," she said.

This year, the UWindsor's Sexual Violence office launched a new campaign: Prevent. Resist. Support.

  • Prevent: involves education and workshops on stopping sexual violence before it happens and shifting campus culture to one about consent.

  • Resist: providing people with a toolbox of skills to empower them and discuss their sexual wants.

  • Support: being there for people who have had unwanted sexual experiences.

"If someone was feeling concerned about the things that happened at Western and was feeling unsafe in their own lives, we might want to give them options of let's do some safety planning," she said.

These include identifying what makes them feel unsafe and ways to change that.

Rudzinski said the office is always open for students who just need to chat or want options of what to do next.

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