Content Warning: Mentions of sexual violence
McGill’s Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE) hosted the ninth annual #ConsentMcGill campaign—a week devoted to educating the McGill community about consent, healthy relationships, and sexual violence through various events and workshops—from Sept. 11 to Sept. 15. Created in 2016, OSVRSE works to provide resources to McGill community members, including crisis intervention, short-term counseling, group therapy, and informational workshops.
After a temporary closure last fall, OSVRSE re-opened in January of this year and hired additional staff throughout the spring. Since June, the office has been operating with five permanent staff members—the largest staff size since its establishment. Associate Director of OSVRSE Émilie Marcotte explained in an interview with The Tribune that the office is currently focused on increasing visibility within the McGill community.
“Because we were closed last fall, and before that, there were all the COVID measures in place, there’s a big chunk of the student population who’ve never really gotten to participate in in-person events,” Marcotte said. “The main goal this year is to re-solidify our presence on campus, make sure people are aware of services and feel comfortable reaching out if […] they need.”
OSVRSE’s events centred on self-care for survivors, such as trauma-informed yoga. OSVRSE also led workshops including one titled “Becoming an Active Bystander” and another called “Peer Support and Self-Care Journaling.” The week ended with a comedy night, partnered with They Go Low, We Go Laugh—a variety show that showcases women of colour and queer comedians.
The comedy show featured seven comedians whose sets focused on varying topics, including sexual awakenings, womanhood, and queer identity. Sara Meleika, the producer of the troupe, told The Tribune that she hoped that the diverse lineup would help audience members feel less alone in their sexual identity.
“I tried to curate a lineup of people that I know who are both sexually free and also people who are like me when I was young, who were very sexually scared,” Meleika said. “So I hope that everybody in the audience finds one person that they feel seen by in their stories of trying to understand themselves and the experiences they’ve had.”
Aside from educational initiatives, one of OSVRSE’s central services is allowing community members to seek support for incidents of sexual violence without having to file a formal report. In an email to The Tribune, Arts Senator Sophia Garofalo explained how that can eliminate certain barriers to accessing support.
“I wish students knew that disclosing does not mean reporting,” Garofalo wrote. “Reporting can be a major barrier for survivors; after having a sense of control taken from you, the last thing you want to do is be forced to report or do anything outside of what feels comfortable to you.”
During the office’s closure last fall, there was a reported lack of communication with students on the part of the administration. Garofalo said that she hopes to foster a stronger relationship between the administration and the student body to minimize confusion and ensure that survivors can access the support they need.
“I really would like to see an increased relationship with the student government,” Garofalo wrote. “OSVRSE is a great resource for us to be able to send students to, and to continue that relationship I’d like to see increased communication, especially from administration. When issues similar to what we experienced last fall unfold, it is crucial to allow the student body the chance to plan ahead of time, instead of constantly […] erring [on] the side of damage control.”
Those in need of support for sexual violence can book a session with an OSVRSE staff member or email the office at [email protected]. Students can also reach out to the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society by calling 438.943.4855 or the Office of the Dean of Students by emailing [email protected].