Our Turn steps up to stop sexual violence

Student groups are coming together to fight sexual violence at Carleton by drafting a new sexual violence framework.

Our Turn Carleton—led by the Carleton Human Rights Society, Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA)—was formed following a survey email in May and consultations asking students about sexual violence on campus.

Representatives of Our Turn Carleton kicked off the initiative after CUSA and the GSA began searching for an alternative to the current Sexual Violence Policy in March.

According to Caitlin Salvino, co-chair of Our Turn Carleton, the university’s Sexual Violence Policy was not “survivor-centric” enough and failed to thoroughly consult students. Our Turn Carleton was formed and leaders drafted three goals for a new framework: eliminate rape culture on campus, support survivors, and advocate for sexual violence policy reforms locally, provincially and nationally.

In an interview with The Charlatan, former Carleton president Roseann Runte said the development process for the policy was “highly consultative.”

“Every student had the opportunity to submit comments and suggestions. The final policy received strong student support and was approved by the Board [of Governors],” she stated in an email.

Kelsey Gilchrist, co-chair of Our Turn Carleton, said one in three women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Post-secondary institutions and frosh weeks increase this risk, she added.

To combat these issues, Our Turn Carleton has introduced peer-to-peer sexual violence prevention support training, which CUSA clubs and societies’ members must attend in order to receive full summer funding.

A Consent 101 workshop and a fall orientation peer support team are also in the works, reinforcing the importance of education in changing the campus environment, Gilchrist said.

“In my three years working at CUSA, I’ve never seen students so united to support a project, so that’s really exciting,” she said. “When you start talking to people about this stuff everyone can mention a friend or a roommate or a classmate that was affected by sexual violence.”

At a May 31 CUSA council meeting, Our Turn Carleton tabled a motion for CUSA to recognize rape culture on campus. According to Salvino, it passed unanimously, marking an important step forward.

“It demonstrates that students, like our provincial government, recognize we have a culture on our campus that facilitates sexual violence,” Salvino said in an email. “More importantly it demonstrates that students and our student association are ready to take a leadership role in supporting the work that we are doing.”

The Our Turn Carleton initiative seeks to recognize the damaging effects rape culture has on everyone, which entails partnering with the university’s administration to ensure success, Gilchrist said.

“Sexual violence is everyone’s problem and I think the administration feels that way too,” she said.

According to Runte, changes will still be made to the Sexual Violence Policy over the next few years and the administration will continue to consider student feedback.

“Together, we will be able to change the culture on our campus from one that facilitates rape culture to one that promotes a culture of consent,” Salvino said.

With files from Jake Munro

Photos by Meagan Casalino