September 5, 2013

Staff at Avalon Sexual Assault Centre were shocked when they saw the video of Saint Mary’s University frosh leaders chanting about sexual assault.

“The message of that chant reinforces rape culture in our society,” says Irene Smith, Executive Director of Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. “Rape culture is perpetuated through television, music, advertising and evidently this chant during frosh week activities at Saint Mary’s University.”

Smith says that rape culture normalizes sexual assault and desensitizes both men and women to the issue of sexualized violence. “The fact that 80 frosh leaders, young men and women, were enthusiastically saying those words on a football field signals that none of them questioned prior to the activity the affect and message those words have.”

In the months following the news of Rehtaeh Parsons’ death, Nova Scotians have been increasingly engaged in discussing sexualized violence. More recently, particularly with the provincial government’s awareness campaign, the issue of consent has been a key priority. It is discouraging to see that a group of the very individuals who were the target audience for that messaging are still not getting the point.

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre has received calls from victims of sexualized violence who have been triggered by the video of the chant. We sincerely hope that the sensitivity training will help the frosh leaders and Student Association Executives become more aware of the problems with rape culture and the effects their words and actions can have on victims, their families and the community. In responding to this situation, they have the opportunity to be part of positive change.