Israel rape crisis center says 'heartbroken' by letter

University fires head of sex assault center who signed letter denying Oct. 7 rapes

President of University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, says director of campus center no longer employed by university, apologizes for ‘hurt and distress’

Samantha Pearson, head of the University of Alberta sexual assault center. (Linkedin photo; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Samantha Pearson, head of the University of Alberta sexual assault center. (Linkedin photo; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, indicated in a statement on Saturday that it had fired the head of the campus sexual assault center who signed onto an open letter denying Hamas-led terrorists raped women during their devastating October 7 onslaught in southern Israel.

Samantha Pearson signed the letter, titled “Stand with Palestine: Call on Political Leaders to End Their Complicity in Genocide,” which slammed center-left New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh for repeating “the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence,” among other critiques of the lawmaker on the issue.

The center’s account on X has since been deactivated.

The letter was authored by Susan Kim, a city councilor in Victoria, and Sarah Jama, a member of Ontario’s provincial parliament who was booted from the NDP over remarks only three days after the October 7 massacre calling Israel an “apartheid” state while ignoring Hamas’s atrocities.

In a letter posted to X, the University of Alberta said “the recent improper and unauthorized use of the name of the [university]’s Sexual Assault Centre in endorsing an open letter has raised understandable concerns from members of our community and the public.”

“Effective immediately, the director of the centre is no longer employed by the university,” the letter read. A new interim director was appointed to head the campus sexual assault center, the university said.

“I want to be clear that the former employee’s personal views and opinions do not in any way represent those of the University of Alberta,” wrote university president Bill Flanagan. “The University of Alberta stands firmly and unequivocally against discrimination and hatred on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, and other protected categories. We recognize the historical and ongoing harms of antisemitism and commit to doing all we can as a university to advance a world free of prejudice and discrimination.”

Flanagan said the event has been “profoundly hurtful and may have compromised the trust of individuals in our community” and also negatively impacted the critical nature of the assault center’s work.

“On behalf of the university, I apologize for the hurt and distress this issue has caused members of our community and beyond,” he said.

Israeli police have begun building several sexual assault cases against terrorists, citing eyewitnesses, video evidence, testimony from terrorists and photographs of victims’ bodies that all point toward such offenses.

The police confirmed a Times of Israel investigation that found physical evidence of sexual assault was broadly not collected from October 7 victims, amid the still ongoing need to identify bodies and complications posed by an active warzone.

Rape kits, which have a 48-hour window to be collected after an assault, were not prioritized, since the area remained a battle zone at that time.

Despite the evidence of rape and other brutal atrocities committed by terrorists, some anti-Israel activists have waged a campaign of denial against them.

The @AntisemitismCA account on X, which posted the letter, wrote: “The message is clear — believe all women, except Jewish women.”

“Is it the Sexual Assault Centre’s policy to turn away women who come to them with ‘unverified’ claims?”

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said that “our hearts were broken” by Pearson’s statement.

It is incredible that an organization that is familiar with the mechanism of silencing [rape victims], chooses it and denies victims,” it tweeted Sunday morning. Calling her dismissal by the university “important,” it added, “but it is not enough. Denial has to be fought.”

In a recent video, Jama also expressed her skepticism of Hamas atrocities, claiming “there is no actual evidence of these rapes and the babies with their heads cut off — all these things are pieces of misinformation.”

“So I think it shows the strength of the Zionist lobby here in Canada and the ways in which they were able to pressure an entire government operation to censure me indefinitely until I apologized,” she said in a video shared by @AntisemitismCA.

Jama’s letter, signed by several pro-Palestinian and progressive groups, called on Canada’s federal lawmakers to resign for “facilitating Israeli-led genocide” against the Palestinians, without providing evidence of the claim.

Ontario MP Sarah Jama, who was booted from the center-left NDP party for anti-Israel comments. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The letter slams lawmakers for “failing to recognize Israeli occupation as ‘terrorist’ and only directing this term at Palestinian resistance,” arguing they “perpetuate an Islamophobic trope.”

“Your language is fueling the collective trauma being experienced by your constituents, and inciting hate crimes against Palestinians and Muslims,” the letter read.

War erupted after Hamas’s shock October 7 invasion of southern Israeli communities under cover of thousands of rockets, when thousands of terrorists killed about 1,200 people, a majority of them civilians of all ages in their homes and people at an outdoors music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, and kidnapped some 240 into the Strip.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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