Thoughts about the Recent String of Sexual Assaults at UBC

This post will most likely be updated with further developments.

A map of where reported sexual assaults on the UBC Vancouver campus in 2013 occurred. Source: RCMP (from Globe and Mail)

For almost every weekend since the end of September, a report of a sexual assault was filed ([1] [2] [3] [4] [5]). If the pattern holds (which hopefully it won’t) another attempt will be made sometime this weekend. While the presence of at least one sexual assailant on campus who appears to be becoming more comfortable as the semester goes on is scary enough, I am somewhat dismayed by the response by campus inhabitants. Due to the controversial topic being discussed, reader discretion is strongly and strictly advised.

Early Campus Response

The RCMP, for the most part, are doing their best to enforce safety measures and give a profile of the suspect. The problem arises from this description:

The lone male suspect is described as Caucasian, late 20s to early 30s . He is approximately 6′ 2″ tall with a thin build. He had short cropped hair and was wearing blue jeans and a dark hoodie. The attacker spoke possibly with an American accent.

Emphasis added. What on earth is “an American accent?” That’s like saying someone from the British Isles speaks in a UK accent.

Another issue that authorities on campus had to rectify were the beacons that are out of order on campus. Given the present situation, these can’t stay out of commission. In fact, I could have sworn the few that are out have been like that for a couple of weeks now…
Another problem is the increased demand for campus security, who, in the light of things, are spread thinner than usual to prevent any possible incidents from occurring.

General Public’s Reaction

The worrying thing right now is the attitude that quite a few people on campus seem to hold: posting security measures is somehow equivalent to victim-blaming and should be frowned upon. I don’t really see the logic in that. Telling someone to be careful and be aware of their surroundings when they go out at night is not saying they deserve to be attacked. It’s common sense. In that one hypothetical moment where a person is attacked, any statutes that we have made as a society or security response times don’t matter; that moment is governed by the fight-or-flight response and as such the attacked must fend off the attacker by themselves. This situation is much harder to come by when one travels in groups. People that disavow self-preservation are comparable to people who are against vaccinations and try to persuade others to do the same. It’s despicable.

A confession over on the UBC Confessions Facebook page remarked about the new attitude with women becoming more distrustful of strange men they meet and shooting them “evil glares.” Naturally, the comments became a cesspool of screaming from both sexes.
I feel like people are forgetting why we do things like discrimination/generalisation and avoidance in the first place: they’re survival mechanisms. It’s understandable for women to generalise men they see to be a potential assailant as it heightens awareness of their surroundings. That being said, why do some people insist on walking in poorly-lit streets (increasing risk) when there are brighter, safer alternatives available? If one isn’t pressed for time they can spare a few minutes in exchange for safety.

A recent response from these incidents is the posting of “Don’t be a rapist” posters and “Sexual Assault Prevention Tips.” I’m not too sure what the point of these posters is, seeing as that didn’t stop the Oct. 27th assault from occurring. They’re juvenile at best and aggravating for the assailant at worst who may decide to escalate. I have heard remarks about how they’re supposed to send a message about how “society normalises rape.” I’m fairly certain that doesn’t happen here in Vancouver. Other parts of the world? Definitely. Not here; most of us understand that sexual assault is a bad thing and condemn it.

Further Campus Response

I think university staff are providing services that work in favour of the students: a recent email I received on Oct. 29th introduced the concept of a ResWalk in each campus residence:


If you feel uncomfortable walking within [residence] and have no one else to walk with, call [number].

A pair of Residence Advisors or security staff will come and walk you to another building in [residence] or to/from the Commonsblock or the Translink Community Shuttle stop.

For other walks, please contact Safewalk at 604.822.5355.

RezWalk Hours of Service:

Sunday to Thursday:  9pm to 1am

Friday to Saturday: 9pm to 3am

In addition, security staff will be patrolling the residence area during these hours.

For up to date information, please visit

Stay safe. Don’t walk alone.

Posters advertising free self-defence classes were also posted around residences.

Take Back the Night Rally

On Oct. 30th, a Take Back the Night march was held to support sexual assault victims and story-sharing in a safe environment. I personally don’t attend these events despite its well-intentioned goals, as charged attitudes run high when dealing with sensitive issues such as these; as such I was not surprised by the oodles of drama on the event’s Facebook page. A few instances where I think things started breaking down:

Are men really welcome to this event? Some choice quotes from the event organisers:


While this is innocuous by itself, we get this following later down:

Yet [UBC security and the RCMP] say nothing to those (men) who feel entitled enough to initiate these sexual assaults.

We get that for the most part sexual assault is committed by males. Was it really necessary to put “men” in parentheses? Do the authorities care more about women assailants?

[W]e demand more responsibility for a safer campus be shifted to behaviours done and attitudes held by men and male students instead of blaming those who are victimized.

So we’re putting the onus on men (and male students, who are somehow not men) now, including purported allies of victims. Right now there seems to be an emphasis of “blame-shifting” than there is on support. It gives an unfortunate implication of inviting men to the rally to tell them that they are wrong and to be ashamed of themselves.

Implied segregation of transgendered and transexual peoples from cis-females. In the end of the proposed schedule:

8:30 Debriefing Space and Discussion, SUB 212, for female and woman identified people

This has been noticed by many attendees and accusations of transphobia sprang not just from the invitees, but from Pride UBC as well. This has been further inflamed by comments on this thread.

Safety precautions = victim blaming. From the event info:


We refuse to be solely held responsible for our own safety. In response to the 4 recently reported assaults of women, UBC Security and the RCMP are quick to tell us not to walk alone at night.

I haven’t seen anywhere that said that women are to be completely held responsible for their own safety. This is just a rehash of what I’ve noted earlier. Thankfully someone else made a thread mentioning this.

Mixed observations about the rally. The rally empathised with a victim and she in turn was grateful for it, On the flip side of the coin, however, there was also a smattering of misandry present during the march as well.

Lack of moderation in wall posts. I’d link to the relevant posts in question, but since almost every single thread eventually derails into ad hominem territory, you can read any of them on the FB page, dear reader. Normally I’d be vocal against moderation of posts as there is the possibility that a well thought-out post gets deleted simply because the moderator does not agree with its views, leading to undeserved slants. Given the amount of vitriol that oozes out of almost every post and its comments, I’m willing to change my stance this time.

Well, I’ve had enough to say for now. With any luck the next time I update this post is when they catch the perpetrator.

[UPDATE 03/11/13]: The Ubyssey publishes its opinion about the Take Back the night rally.

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