News / Vancouver

UBC students plan rally to speak out against victim-blaming

Students who say “you can feel the fear” at the University of British Columbia in light of three sexual assaults reported to RCMP in the past four weeks will hold a Take Back the Night rally Wednesday evening.

The rally, which is also in response to rape chants that made headlines during frosh week, aims to address what organizers call victim-blaming messages from the university and a more prevalent culture of sexism.

“The only message they’re projecting is walk with others, don’t walk alone. This is such a bigger issue,” organizer and first-year student Emily Monaghan said. “They’re putting the onus on the female population – I don’t think that’s OK.”

The event also hopes to spark an ongoing discussion and unite the community, fourth-year student and rally organizer Rain said.

“We’re hoping that people acknowledge that this isn’t a one time thing,” Rain said.

With 850 planning to attend the event so far, the students have had both positive and negative responses to the event.

Some men “don’t want to see themselves as part of the problem,” Monaghan said, but male privilege is part of the issue.

It might be uncomfortable, but it’s an issue the organizers agree needs to be addressed.

The university supports the event and has offered to provide additional security, first aid, megaphones and safety vests for organizers, said Lucie McNeill, UBC’s director of public affairs.

UBC launched a website (ubc.ca/staysafe) to keep students in the loop regarding the most up-to-date information on the assaults, McNeill said.

While the rally organizers take issue with its language – “Stay safe. Don’t walk alone.” – it’s important for students to have access to alerts, McNeill added.

“Right now, we’re really focused on the present sense of alarm and danger caused by three sexual assaults in four weeks,” she said.

The university is being careful not to “blame the victim” in its response, according to a statement from Louise Cowan, VP Students.

“There is an important discussion to be had about violence against women: what causes it, what enables it, what perpetuates it and what will really defeat it,” she said.

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