Ryerson student Hanny Sierra thought all she needed to worry about in her third-year graphic communications program was grades.
“Given that so much attention has been brought to the issue, it is definitely concerning to think that safety is just one more thing Ryerson students have to worry about,” Sierra said.
On September 26 and 27, the Ryerson student union organized an emergency community meeting on sexual assault. In an email forwarded to students, the meeting would “discuss the challenge gender based violence” on the school campus.
At the meeting, participants sat at tables near a banner on the wall informing students and staff about the Ryerson Sexual Assault Survivour support line. A Toronto Police Services officer stood at the closed door. Marwa Hamad, vice-president equity of the Ryerson student union, spoke to the town hall.
“This is a student safety concern,” she said.
Recently, the university has been the site of five sexual assaults, which began in early September. Four are currently being investigated by Toronto Police Services. Const. Wendy Drummond offered the police response.
“There’s always concern when a crime occurs,” she said in a telephone interview.
At the meetings, participants said they worried about being attacked on campus and feeling safe in any situation, even fire drills. The students asked the media to not report specifics due to the sensitivity of the topic.
“It is important that as students we come together and address the issue,” Sierra said. “Security on campus is a right, not something to be considered as a privilege.”
At York University there have been two sexual assaults since the school year began.
“Be aware or educated of what is happening in the community concerning any crime. Educating yourself will reduce the chance of becoming a victim,” Const. Drummond said.
Drummond spoke of a number of strategies for women to offset the threat of sexual assault, such as walking in well-lit areas and not using distracting headphones.
“If you make the decision to go in the area, know what you need to be aware of,” Const. Drummond added.