TRU students recount sexual assault experiences amid 'Me Too' online movement

By Vanessa Ybarra
October 16, 2017 - 6:27pm

KAMLOOPS — The social media hashtag 'Me Too' has exploded as a way for women to speak up about sexual assault and harrassment.

While the movement began as a response to allegations of sexual assaults in Hollywood,a local assault victim is hoping 'Me Too' will give courage to all women who are afraid to speak up.

Five years ago Jean Strong was sexually assaulted by five men at a party.

“I ended up locked in a bathroom in a house, hiding until I was able to run out of the house," said Strong.

The then 19-year-old TRU student ended up reporting the incident to a school counsellor where she was told to consider switching universities.

"I was so shocked that someone who I went to for support or guidance would say what felt like 'we don’t want you to be in our program.”

Strong’s experience of sexual assault is one of millions flooding Twitter as part of the ‘me too' movement.

The initiative is in response to the dozens of women who have come forward claiming to be sexually assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

"Social media feeds, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram being flooded with these messages shows how many people are experiencing this."

At TRU students say sexual assault or harassment is common at universities.

"I was assaulted my first year at another university," said nursing student Jordynn Denness "I didn’t bring it up because people were like ‘what were you drinking? What were you wearing You went to that party with those types of people.'

“It's a very hush hush situation because girls always get placed with the blame. Men are never really held accountable for sexual harassment and it seems normalized," said Associates of Arts student Hannah McCoach.

In 2016 every university and college was required to have a sexual assault policy in place. 

At TRU pamphlets and posters around the university inform students on what constitutes sexual assault and how to access support services.

“I can provide information and options about what to access," said Amber Huva, Sexual Violence Prevention Manager at TRU.

"That might include accessing the counselling services that TRU has or accessing a free confidential support in the community which could be the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre or perhaps the Y Women's Emergency Shelter.

The main goal of the policy is to break the silence.

"It warms my heart to think that victim survivors can now have a greater sense of not being alone," added Huva. "I feel there’s a community of other folks who have had similar experiences around them."

As for Strong, who is campaigning for improved victim support services, her hope is the 'Me Too' movement will get more women to recount their experiences.

“It's those people who are willing to speak out and share their stories that really motivate change within a society," said Strong. "It’s easy to listen to a statistic and understand it but it doesn’t have the same impact as someone coming out and saying ‘saying this happened to me."

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