U of R president speaks on own experience with sexual harassment

University of Regina president Vianne Timmons is joining the #metoo conversation.

Vianne Timmons shares story, encourages students to come forward

Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Regina, said she experienced sexual harassment as recently as four years ago. (CBC News)

University of Regina president and vice-chancellor Vianne Timmons is joining the #metoo conversation.

Last week, she penned a newspaper column discussing her own experiences with sexual harassment.

She said the incidents spanned from when she was 14 to as recently as four years ago. She had never spoken publicly about them before but said she was inspired to after seeing all the stories that emerged through the hashtag #metoo campaign.

I felt so accosted and so shocked that it all happened- Vianne Timmons, U of R president

Timmons said she was recently attending a large meeting in the U.S. when an older man from North Dakota began talking to her. She said this led to him touching her inappropriately.

She moved to get away but he followed her and touched her again, she said.

"I was so uncomfortable I got my coat and left the event. On the way up the hill towards my hotel I almost got physically ill," Timmons said. "I felt so accosted and so shocked that it all happened and that I didn't do anything."

Worried she would make a scene, Timmons said she didn't tell the man off but instead tried to get out of the situation with the least amount of attention. After, she said she avoided telling people for fear they would think she didn't handle the incident properly.

"You always reflect: 'Did I somehow do something to invite this?'" Timmons said. "Women think about this all the time. We're judged with how we speak, what we wear, how much we drink at a function.

"All of those things are part of the guilt, the shame, that we feel."

Creating a solution

Timmons said since sharing her experience, she's heard from many female coworkers about similar experiences.

Along with her, she said two of her three daughters have also experienced sexual harassment and one was sexual assaulted.

Timmons said survivors should not to feel shame like she did, no matter how other people react. She recommends reflecting on the situation, talking with other women about it and making a plan in case it happens again.

She also wants to see more men become part of the conversation. At the U of R, they are offered bystander training to encourage intervention.

"This is not a women's issue, this is a societal issue," she said. 

Timmons said she hopes that more students will be empowered to come forward after hearing about her experience.

With files from CBC New's Jill Morgan