After several online posts about sexual assault and possible drugging during the first week of school at Western University, an orientation leader is sharing her first-hand account of what happened.
Over the weekend, there were several social media reports that 30 or more students at Medway-Sydenham Hall may have been drugged and/or assaulted.
Following the reports, Katarina Desjardins, a fourth-year student at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, who identified herself as an orientation volunteer and SOF – a high-year graduate working to help and mentor new students – several issued tweets and also an official statement over the weekend and what she experienced over the coming week.
“It was before midnight on Friday when we saw people start falling like flies,” Desjardins wrote.
“Before midnight when we saw ambulances rushing to three different girls within a radius of less than 100 metres.”
Desjardins wrote that rumors that people had been drugged began to circulate immediately and were quickly reported by fellow coffers.
In the past, sophers lived with students in residence with floor supervisors or don, but due to the pandemic and university trying to ensure spots for all first year students, this year students were unable to stay in residence.
“We weren’t allowed in residence buildings because of the Covid protocol – I got that – but even when we begged the higher-ups and administration to test people and help us ensure Let’s say everyone was safe, we were denied access,” Desjardins wrote.
Between midnight and 3 a.m. Friday night, Desjardins said she assisted in six situations where first-year students were disabled and heard “countless other horrifying stories” across campus.
In a statement sent to Granthshala News, Desjardins is calling for the university to fail to “build a safe campus that prevents sexual and gender-based violence, demonstrates zero tolerance for any perpetrators of violence, and provides ample resources for its students.”
Between the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) 2017-2018 school year, 71 percent of Western University students reported sexual harassment, while 32 percent reported sexual harassment.
In addition to the incidents over the weekend, an additional three separate reports of sexual assault involving four female victims (Western students) are being investigated by London Police.
Desjardins also shared other accounts of sexual assault during orientation and in the first week of school.
“We were yelled at and physically assaulted by men while trying to help in various crisis situations involving the fall of first-year students across campus.”
She has been critical of Western policy to report sexual harassment and gender-based violence, saying “this is not enough.”
“The ‘party’ culture in the Western has enabled dastardly acts of harassment and assault for far too long and I have heard from many people how complicated and again painful the reporting process is.”
Desjardins said that beyond implementing a new policy, Western needs to ensure that policies are implemented to make sure all students on campus feel safe.
“I’m sorry for the culture here that made people feel entitled to your body – I’m sorry we couldn’t intervene sooner – I’m sorry the university failed to keep you safe,” Desjardins wrote.
London Police and Western University are encouraging victims to come forward in the wake of reports on social media.
As per the latest update on Tuesday, the police have said that no one has come forward with a formal complaint related to the allegations online.
On Thursday, Western University released new action plans and plans for a task force on sexual violence and student safety.
“It has been a very difficult time for our students and the entire Western community. We clearly have a culture problem that we need to address,” President Alan Shepard said.
“We let our students and their families down.”
Reports of sexual harassment during the first week of school sparked outrage among students and the community, leading many students to organize walkouts to take a stand against gender-based violence.
The walkout will take place on Friday at 12 noon Western on US Hill.
Anyone who has experienced sexual or gender-based violence can contact Anova’s Crisis Line 24/7 at the Abused Women’s Helpline at 519-642-3000, LAWC 519-432-2204 or 519-642-3000 Is.