First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone who read and shared my original article regarding Marie Henein; having a piece I’ve written go national is more than I would have ever expected to come of this and for that I am grateful. With that being said, I would like to formally acknowledge the controversy and differences of opinions that have come from my article.
When I was told that Marie Henein would be a guest lecturer for the Maple League Universities I was not filled with hatred for this woman, I was consumed with disappointment in my school. The decision to host Henein, who is known in her field as “Hannibal Lecter” for her brutal “whacking” of victims/survivors in cases of sexual violence, was reckless and irresponsible. Whilst I agree that university is a place for open and at times controversial discussion, university campuses are also the setting for countless acts of sexual violence that are underreported and swept under the rug by the administration.
The backlash I received was shocking to me. By all means was Henein within the law when she discredited those victims/survivors, when she jokingly brushed off Ghomeshi’s acts of violence as “foreplay”, and when she admitted to using a victim’s sexual history to persuade judges; but isn’t that part of the problem?
Being a victim of sexual violence myself, one incident being perpetrated by a student at our school, I am hyperaware that the system was not built to protect me or any other victims/survivors. I, like many others, followed Ghomeshi’s trial as closely as I could. It was horrific.
The law, and now my school are implementing an ideology that in order to receive justice for your sexual assault you must be the perfect victim; you must remember your assault perfectly and in order of events, you must have a sexual history that does not comply with your assault, and you must be able to report your case immediately and without hesitation. All of this re-traumatizes victims that have reported, and forces those who haven’t to remain silent.
This is an impossible framework for vulnerable groups to work through. This is what I wish to see change. By choosing Marie Henein as a guest lecturer without proper discussion and consultation of those it might affect, Bishops, Acadia, Mount Allison, and StFX are contributing to rape culture. You should not have to have a professional law degree in order to defend yourself to your school, to a courtroom, and to the person who assaulted you in the first place.
In an interview with the Canadian Press I was asked for the first time what I would like to be done about this decision; in the spur of the moment I said that I wished for the speech to be cancelled. I realize now that this is not the best solution to the damage that has been done. What I do ask, for those of you with the emotional capability to speak out against these injustices, is that you do. If you have written, commented, or even spoke aloud that this discussion would be beneficial, make it so.
Finally, I would like to reiterate once again to all victims/survivors both on our campus and everywhere else that what happened to you is not your fault. There are people you can speak to who will help you find peace. You are not alone on this journey through traumatization that you were forced to take. If you need help I urge you to speak to someone you are able to trust (my door, email, etc. is always open) and to use the resources available to you that will work to protect you.
For help please contact the Antigonish Women’s Resource centre:
219 Main St, Antigonish, NS