The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre advocates on behalf of the voices of Carleton students to develop a student-run, university-funded, sustainable, and accessible Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) on Carleton University’s campus. This proposed Centre would be available to all Carleton students, staff, and faculty regardless of gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, age, Mother Tongue or student status. It would provide peer support, advocacy and public awareness about sexual assault. All services would be free and confidential. The Coalition believes that such a Centre would give the Carleton community safe, accessible, and timely access to sexual assault support services on campus.
The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre was created in the fall of 2007 by two graduate students in the wake of a high profile sexual assault on Carleton University’s campus that received national attention. Lesley Claire and Julie Lalonde, graduate students at Carleton, were both experienced in sexual assault support and knew that gender-based violence was a harsh reality on all university campuses. Having come from the University of Alberta, which has a student-run sexual assault centre, Lesley suggested an audit of existing services on campus. This informal audit and meetings with Carleton students uncovered that Carleton University’s support services are inaccessible and patchy at best. Wait times are unrealistic and the overwhelming majority of services are run by Carleton University administrators, which is highly problematic.
Using the University of Alberta as an example of successful student-run sexual assault services, Lesley and Julie formed the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault, whose members now include the Womyn’s Centre, members of the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA), the Graduate Students Association (GSA), the Women’s Resource Centre at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University faculty and students from Carleton and the University of Ottawa.
The Coalition held two referendum questions as part of the general CUSA and GSA elections in January 2008 which found that over 80% of Carleton University students were in favour of a student-run, university funded sexual assault centre which would provide peer support, public education campaigns and advocacy. The results of this referendum were and continue to be, ignored by Carleton University administration.
Through 2008 and until the summer of 2009, the Coalition continued to collect petitions, write editorials and coordinated various campaigns on campus to lobby for the creation of a Centre. The Coalition’s activities reached a fever pitch in the summer of 2009 when Carleton University issued a highly problematic legal defense statement in response to a lawsuit filed by Jane Doe, the survivor of the high-profile assault in 2007. The statement (available here: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/pdf/document.pdf) states that the “plaintiff failed to take appropriate or any action for her own safety” (Page 2 of Defense, section F). Carleton University received numerous complaints and negative publicity for their stance.
One business day before a planned rally by the Coalition, Carleton University settled out of court with Jane Doe. The details of that settlement are confidential. Carleton University has yet to apologize or retract their statement.
On November 10, 2009 the Coalition for a Carleton held a “Task Force on Gender-Based Violence” in Carleton’s University Centre. There were 11 public disclosures, 1 written disclosure and numerous disclosures through the “Airing out Carleton’s Dirty Laundry” exhibit.
After the Task Force, the Coalition decided to move ahead with the creation of a Support Line for Carleton students, staff and faculty.
In March 2010, the Coalition created the “Carleton Sexual Assault Support Line” a student-led, community funded sexual assault support line that operates from 8am – midnight, seven days a week. It offers free, confidential peer support to any student, staff or faculty.
The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre remains dedicated to its goal of seeing a student-run, sexual assault centre on Carleton University’s campus.