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Campus-wide walk-out at U of G raises awareness of gender-based and sexual violence (7 photos)

Students rallied on Thursday in support of sexual assault survivors and for an end to gender-based violence

Hundreds of students marched through the University of Guelph campus on Thursday for a campus-wide walk-out to raise awareness of gender-based and sexual violence.

Chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho, rape has got to go” echoed across Johnston Green as students made their way there from Branion Plaza.

“This is a movement by the students in support of making sure that we have a sexual violence-free campus,” said Irene Thompson, interim vice-provost of student affairs at the University of Guelph.

“As you have heard them speaking about, they have talked about getting rid of the rape culture that exists in our society, they talked about the responsibility each of us has in making sure that doesn't happen. They amplified the voice of a student who came forward and talked of their experiences.”

Jensen Williams, a public educator at Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis, started the rally saying sexual violence should never be a part of the student university experience.

She said conversations around consent need to happen a lot earlier than when students step on campus.

A release from the university said, “the university supports students’ rights to participate in such events and express their views on this important topic. Gender-based and sexual violence is a societal problem that extends beyond university campuses. Combating it requires communal, collaborative action. As a society, we need to do more and better, including increased vigilance, action and awareness.”

The student walk-out comes five days after the Guelph Police Service said it is investigating after receiving information from the University of Guelph about female students possibly having their drinks spiked with an unknown substance.

Last week, a similar demonstration was held at Western University which saw thousands of students walk out of class to protest a series of reported sexual assaults on campus.

“There have been a couple of incidences that have been publicized, but sexual violence is out there, it is out there all the time,” said Thompson. “People don’t always feel comfortable about coming forward, sometimes they need time to process it.”

The walk-out coincided with Bi Visibility Day, a day held every Sept. 23 to recognize and celebrate the lives of bisexual people within the community.