Nova Scotia

Dalhousie dentistry students' Facebook posts 'dismay' advocates

Advocates who provide resources for women and survivors of sexual violence say they're dismayed to learn about misogynistic Facebook comments attributed to some dentistry students at Dalhousie University.

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre sees comments as cultural problem

The male members of the Facebook group Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen joked about using chloroform on women. (CBC)

Advocates who provide resources for women and survivors of sexual violence say they're dismayed to learn about misogynistic Facebook comments attributed to some dentistry students at Dalhousie University.

"Any responses that I've seen so far have just sort of been glazing over the surface. I want acknowledgement of how deep this runs," said Jude Ashburn, a co-ordinator at the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre at Dalhousie University.

Ashburn felt the women named by the students in the comments were victimized. 

"I would love to see a statement come from Dalhousie and also the Dalhousie Student Union about how when things like this happen it's not some fluke flash in the pan," said Ashburn.

"I would like to see responses from the university that show solidarity on that level with the survivors and say, 'We're not going to tolerate this.'"

While the centre is closed over the winter break, Ashburn said staff will support anyone who comes forward. 

On a Facebook page, a group called themselves the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen made sexual comments that appeared to involve discussions of female classmates. Before their Facebook page was taken down late last week, someone captured the information and sent it to CBC News.

In one post, members were polled and asked, "Who would you hate f--k?" They were given two names to vote on.

They also joked about using chloroform on women.

The members of the group later realized others had viewed the pages and wrote about the need to destroy evidence. 

A 'reality' on campuses

The director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax said she sees the comments as a systemic cultural problem. 

"I was very dismayed and enraged that this continues to be a reality on our university campuses and in our society," said Jackie Stevens, the centre's executive director. 

Jackie Stevens, the executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, says she sees the comments made by some dentistry students at Dalhousie University as a systemic cultural problem. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)

"This is another example of how social media is being used as a forum to be disrespectful and to demean women. Whether they're acting on it or not, this is a forum that encourages disrespect and discrimination. It is really inciting hatred towards women."

Stevens said she's troubled by how sex has become associated with pornography, violence, and rape. The male students on the Facebook group used the term "hate f--k" to describe what they wanted to do to two female students. 

"Sex is not about pleasure and about intimacy anymore. It is about violence. In this context they're talking about inciting violence," Stevens said. 

"Whether it's hypothetical or not, they've taken a poll of, 'Which one of these two women would you do this to?' That is totally about debasing these women, humiliating these women and it's turning the sex act into something that is violent and is meant to harm."

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