Students walk out at Waterdown high school, saying principal reinforced sexual-assault myth

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Published October 8, 2021 at 7:58 pm

Content warning: this article contains discussion of sexual assault.

There was a student walkout on Friday at a high school near Hamilton, over the principal’s comments reinforcing the dress code for girls, which were made after the police said they were conducting a sexual assault investigation that is linked with the school.

Hundreds of students at Waterdown District High School (WDHS) left the building, drawing a flurry of TV news crews. Their action was in response to content and timing of a morning announcement made by WDHS principal Theresa Sgambato, which they viewed as perpetuating a victim-blaming myth that shifts the onus to end sexual violence to potential targets of abuse.

Hamilton Police Service (HPS) announced Tuesday that it has begun a sexual assault investigation that is tied to the school. It is believed the suspect was not in a position of authority at WDHS, and no arrests have been announced.

“Several victims have come forward,” the Oct. 5 release from HPS stated.

The school is part of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).

Sgambato’s apology came the same day that the HWDSB’s Twitter account retweeted a post touting a mentoring partnership between both area school boards and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Forge FC. The initiative is formed around the idea that, “Challenging toxic masculinity and rigid norms is one way to reduce gender-based violence.”

Experts also believe that sexual assault is tied to power, and not to what the victim was wearing.

A travelling “What Were You Wearing?” art exhibit, comprised of clothes that sexual-violence and intimate-partner-violence survivors were wearing when they were assaulted, has sought to refute the victim-blaming myth. It has travelled around American university campus since it first exhibited in 2014 by sexual and intimate-partner violence advocates Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert.

Resources

Articles about sexual assault, gendered violence and/or intimate partner violence can be triggering for survivors. There are a number of resources in Hamilton that support survivors:

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