A sex-assault prevention educator says she's receiving a backlash of nasty and abusive emails and tweets after publicly complaining that she was verbally abused by Royal Military College officer cadets she had been invited to speak to last fall.
"If me talking about having been harassed compels you to write me an email telling me that I am human garbage and deserve to die, I think you're proving my point," Julie Lalonde told CBC News.
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Lalonde said she had been asked to speak to approximately 1,000 undergraduate students in groups of about 250. All of the students had been ordered to give up a weekend day off to attend the session.
The cadets were the most hostile audience she had faced in a career of speaking about sexual assault prevention, Lalonde said.
She complained about being whistled at, catcalled, laughed at and openly disrespected by the officer cadets. She was able after five months to secure an apology from the school's commandant, Brig.-Gen. Al Meinzinger.
Lalonde went public with her experience, which resulted in a flurry of criticism. Following an interview with Radio-Canada, Lalonde said she got "a detailed threat telling me to kill myself."
She said another person wrote: "If you are to comment about sexual harassment, you need to be able to handle it when it comes your way."
Lalonde's complaints come in the wake of the release of a report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps. Deschamps found the military possessed a sexualized culture in which harassment and assault were underreported and often overlooked.
'Culture of silence'
Deschamps, along with Maj.-Gen. Christine Whitecross, who was appointed to lead the military's response team to the report, appeared before a House standing committee on national defence Monday. NDP defence critic Jack Harris mentioned Lalonde's incident and raised concerns about whether Canadians' sons and daughters who join the military will be protected from criminal acts and harassment.
"I think my experience of not only having been harassed, but having been harassed for speaking out about it, I think proves the Deschamps report about how there's a culture of silence," Lalonde said.
"And there's a culture of misogyny and sexism. So much of the response I've gotten is very gendered. It isn't just 'I disagree with you' or 'I don't think you should be speaking out.' It's very clearly gendered. It's very clearly sexist. It's very clearly 'as a woman you're disgusting. I can't believe you would even think you would have the right to speak out on these issues.'"
The attacks have been very personal, she said, not from people seeking statistics or questioning her approach.
A common response has been "I might've listened to you if you weren't a woman," she said.
Meanwhile, a number of cadets who took part in the lecture have accused Lalonde of being provocative and baiting and suggesting that RMC men had a "rapist" culture across the board. Lalonde has denied this, and stated emphatically on Twitter that she "did not in any way, shape or form imply that all men are rapists."