HALIFAX - Male dentistry students at Dalhousie University who participated in a Facebook page that contained sexually violent content about female classmates have expressed remorse in an open letter to the community.
The university in Halifax posted a joint statement dated Sunday by 29 members of the fourth-year dentistry class on its website, with the unidentified students who wrote what is described as an open letter saying they wanted to comment before an academic standards committee rules on what discipline will be applied.
The members of the class who agreed to the statement are participating in a restorative justice process the university started after the Facebook site's contents became public.
The letter says 12 male students who participated in the Facebook site believe their actions were "hurtful, painful and wrong," and that they harmed their classmates, patients, the university, their profession and the public.
"Through the restorative justice process we are doing the work required to be sorry – to confront the harms we have caused, to accept our responsibility, to figure out what is needed of us to make things right, and to gain the knowledge, skills and capacities to be trusted health-care professionals," the men say in the letter.
"The need for change in ourselves became very clear through deep reflection on our failures and harmful actions."
According to the CBC, members of the Facebook group voted on which woman they'd like to have "hate" sex with and joked about using chloroform on women. The CBC said in another post, a woman is shown in a bikini with a caption that says, "Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl)."
There are three parts to the letter posted on the university website. One is written by the men in the class, a second section by the women and a third written by all the participants in the restorative justice process.
The response from six women who were the target of the posts on Facebook says what was said was harmful and reflected "a broader culture" within the university and society.
But the six women say they don't agree with a university decision to segregate the men from their classmates and keep them out of clinical practice.
That decision fragmented and alienated the class at a time when they were particularly in need of support from their classmates, the women say, adding that they feel safe with the 12 members of the Facebook group.
"Many have asserted that all women feel unsafe, but this is not the case for us — we feel safe with the members of the Facebook group involved in this restorative process," the women say in the letter.
They describe themselves as strong and professional women who are capable of speaking for themselves in the case.
"The restorative process has provided a very important space for us to engage safely and respectfully with our colleagues and others to convey our perspectives and needs."
The men say they have participated in a series of workshops to consider what they wrote and how to repair the damage since the restorative justice process started in December.
They have met at least once a week as a group with the organizers of the restorative justice process and have also had individual meetings to consider what actions would help make amends, they wrote. The sessions have included educational workshops from experts in sexualized violence, psychology and counselling, law and human rights, religion and conflict resolution.
The men say they have also participated in discussions on misogyny.
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