McGill University Evicts its Own Sexual Assault Centre Three Days Before the End of ClassesWednesday, July 28 2010
Montreal, Qc - April 22, 2005: The Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students Society (SACOMSS) is a vital on-campus resource for students and members of the Montreal community. Founded in 1991, it was the only entirely student run Sexual Assault Centre in North America. SACOMSS provides a confidential telephone helpline, nine different support groups, a community outreach program, an accompaniment service, and a walk-in service with a library and resources, all of which all are free of charge. SACOMSS is funded entirely by the students of McGill University, who, in the most recent student referendum, voted with an 86% majority to continue supporting these services.
On Friday the 8th of April, the Faculty of Arts informed SACOMSS that due to growing academic demands, it can no longer provide space for the service. SACOMSS will therefore be evicted from their current space on May 31st. As of this release, this leaves the student group exactly 39 days to move its entire operations. This information was delivered by e-mail to the organization three days before the end of classes. To date, the alternate space offered by the University Planning Office (UPO), the body responsible for all space allocations at McGill, is inadequate to accommodate the Centre’s needs. No space has been offered by the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU), the body which offers SACOMSS as a service. Neither body has officially accepted responsibility for SACOMSS, leaving the University’s only assault centre in a state of confusion and chaos. Unless the University recognizes that SACOMSS needs a space on campus, McGill’s survivors of sexual assault will be left with nowhere to go.
The SACOMSS main office is located on McTavish Street, adjacent to other student services and the student union building. The contracts for renovations, which are planned for June 1st, were signed in early February. The eviction was clearly planned as other groups which share the space, such as the Muslim Student Association, had received notice at the beginning of March. While SACOMSS understands that the Faculty of Arts is under pressure to provide space for academic purposes, the tardiness of the eviction notice severely compromises its services since volunteers and resources are scarce during the examination period and the summer months. The University’s neglect is indicative of the lack of importance it accords to providing vital services for its students. SACOMSS is currently appealing to the University to recognize that the centre is a priority.
Sexual assault is widespread and underreported. In 2000, there were 24,049 sexual assaults recorded in Canada and 3424 in Quebec (Statistics Canada). The MUC Police recorded 1435 sexual assaults and 13 500 incidences of domestic violence in 1998. For fourteen years, SACOMSS has been one of the few organizations addressing this serious problem, on and off campus. It is one of the only services catering to the English speaking community as well as one of the few sexual assault centres offering services to male survivors of assault.
This academic year alone, SACOMSS has facilitated awareness workshops to 700 high school students, 220 first year McGill students, and 350 individuals in various campus and community groups. In addition, the SACOMSS Crisis Line is staffed by over 500 volunteer hours per month to meet the needs of the Centre’s clients. The McGill University Administration must recognize that without an appropriate space, the Centre will cease to function. SACOMSS appeals to the greater Montreal community for support in this time of need.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR SACOMSS
Please send politely-worded letters in English, French or your own language to Principal Heather Munroe-Blum urging her to take immediate action to demonstrate that the Centre and the well-being of survivors of sexual assault is a priority to the University. Letters that have a personal touch have the greatest impact, so we encourage you to write in your own words. You can also use the Sample Letter below and simply fill in the underlined areas. Include as much personal information as you feel comfortable sharing. Giving an indication of who you are will help show that people of all ages and walks of life are concerned about the Centre.
SEND APPEALS TO:
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
McGill University, James Administration Building,
845 Sherbrooke Street West,
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T5
Vice-President (University Affairs)
Students' Society of McGill University
William and Mary Brown Student Services Building
3600 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y2