On Friday, November 13, UNB students and members of the community gathered outside of Sir Howard Douglas Hall to protest UNB’s silencing of sexual violence survivors and protection of the perpetrators.
The protest was inspired by Mount Allison University graduate, Michelle Roy, who recently accused Mount Allison of silencing victims of sexual violence, and organized a protest at that campus on Thursday, November 12, that saw approximately 400 people in attendance.
The UNB protest was organized, in part, by Miranda Murphy, who is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual violence, and recently went viral on TikTok for a video in which she identified her abuser and described the abuse that she was subjected to. The event gave a platform for survivors to tell their stories and featured speakers from various campus and community groups giving their support for the cause.
“Graduating from this university without experiencing any form of sexual violence is treated as a privilege, and not a basic human right,” Murphy said as she opened the protest. “Whether you are here openly as a survivor, or you are here and only you know that you are a survivor, I want to take a second and recognize the immense amount of strength, courage, and resiliency it takes to show up today.”
Murphy highlighted the importance of taking care of oneself, and expressed that if anyone in attendance became uncomfortable, or overwhelmed, they were free to leave without judgement. Several sexual assault support advocates were in attendance, as well as the Campus Sexual Assault Support Advocate (CSASA), Hilary Swan. Swan is a Sexual Violence New Brunswick employee who works on campus to support and advocate for survivors.
“We need to listen to survivors, we need to hold perpetrators accountable for their behaviour, and we need to evaluate these processes and policies on a regular basis. By working together with survivors, advocates, and administration, I believe we hold the power to create transformative change for future generations of UNB, STU, and NBCC students,” Swan explained.
David Coon, Green Party leader of New Brunswick and Fredericton South MLA, was in attendance at the protest.
“The problems are not going to be solved by not talking about them, and that’s why it’s so important today for so many students to be out here to stand up and speak out, to share their stories,” said Coon.
Members of the UNB Student Union also showed their support, including the current VP Advocacy, Melissa Ghanem, who spoke about her own experience with sexual assault.
“I felt extremely hopeless because people of power and authority continued to blame the system, but refused to do anything to change it,” Ghanem explained. “Not once did I feel like UNB staff would be properly equipped to support me and protect me, or bring me justice.”
UNBSU President, Sean MacKenzie, expressed extreme disappointment and disgust at UNB’s neglect of student safety.
“While CSASA itself is an amazing resource, they have not been able to reach their full potential because of the restrictions placed upon them by the university,” Mackenzie said. “UNB needs to provide the CSASA with the resources to expand their services further.”
The Instagram account, @accountabilityatUNB, is an anonymous account that provides a platform for past and present UNB, St.Thomas University, and New Brunswick Community College students to discuss their experiences with sexual violence and the response, or lack thereof, from UNB.
This account provides information on how to recognize abuse, resources for survivors, and provides trigger warnings on its posts. It is shining a harsh light on the failure of UNB to support and protect their students, and is demanding that UNB recognize their failure.
The account has shared several stories from anonymous survivors who discuss being taken advantage of by Dr. Manoj Bhargava, a specialist at the UNB Students Health Clinic who is currently still employed by the university.
Alison Larade, a fifth-year student at St. Thomas University, has chosen to speak publicly about their abuse at the hands of Bhargava, which they detailed in an Instagram statement. Larade was referred to the UNB Health Center in their first year, seeking support for struggles stemming from a previous sexual trauma.
“This is a pattern of sexual abuse by the hands of a medical professional,” they stated, calling for action from UNB. “At this time, he is still practicing and treating students. We need to have him removed from campus and investigated for his crimes.”
In response to the accusations, UNB has stated that they do not tolerate sexual violence, and stated that they have protocols in place adhering to the Tri-Campus Sexual Assault Strategy. UNB has not responded to allegations that they protect abusers, or taken responsibility for the role that they play in prolonging suffering by placing strict restrictions on who is eligible for sexual violence support.
Resources for Support:
Sexual Violence New Brunswick (Fredericton): 1-506-454-0437
Chimo Helpline: 1-800-667-5005
Liberty Lany: 1-506-458-9774