THE BLOG

I'm Disgusted By Assault Allegations in Parliament, But Not Surprised

11/12/2014 08:36 EST | Updated 03/04/2015 05:59 EST
Andrew Burton via Getty Images
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 23: A flag next to the Canadian Parliament Building is flown at half-staff one day after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of the Canadian Army Reserves was killed while standing guard in front of the National War Memorial by a lone gunman, on October 23, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada. After killing Cirillo the gunman stormed the main parliament building, terrorizing the public and politicians, before he was shot dead. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

This blog has been edited at the author's request.

As allegations of sexual assault seem to be flooding out of Parliament Hill, I want to pretend that I am as shocked as the rest of the nation. But I'm not.

The reality for survivors is that they don't have the luxury or privilege of being shocked when sexual assault happens. In fact, it's the reality for so many who are involved in anti-oppression, feminist, activism. To pretend that such allegations are such surprising would be willful ignorance to this rape culture that our society has, time and again, perpetuated and normalized. We can't act like it's a truly shocking revelation, because statistically, there's just nothing out of the norm or shocking about it. And that's the scariest part.

I am disgusted that such injustices could be happening in a place that the country turns to for leadership, by people that our nation puts their trust in. I'm not surprised. Sexual violence happens predominantly among those we know and trust. I'm not pointing this out to create some kind of mass panic and ultra paranoia, but to highlight that we as a society, have pretended for so long that rape culture is not a serious threat, only to find out more and more every day as it is.

The brave people coming out with their stories are not few or rare, but widespread.

We've allowed this problem to stay buried for so long, masking it as this horrific rarity when really the abuse of women has become so normalized that we are hardly able to recognize it. We have added this element of glamour to the brutalization of women, as if it's due to irresistibility or dangerous love or hungry sexual prowess. And the stories that divert from this strange pseudo-romantic subtext that society has thrown onto cases of sexual violence are attributed to rare stories of "loose" women, creeps in alleyways, the outlier pervert.

But until we start accepting the truth -- that sexual violence is normalized, widespread, and always unacceptable -- we'll never truly be able to tackle rape culture.

So many activists, and particularly those who are survivors, do not have the blissful luxury of giving the benefit of the doubt. We lose the ability to feel surprised at horrible stories of sexual violence, because we see how prevalent it is.

It's time for people to stop being surprised as if these are just isolated incidents, and instead, accept that sexual violence is happening to such a huge amount of women and that action needs to be taken immediately. We need to start talking about consent in schools, dispel ideas of "boys will be boys," teach young children the concept of personal boundaries, and shatter rape myths that silence survivors. Rape culture needs to be dealt with now and right at its root. We can't wait for more and more terrible crimes to happen and then resurface years later followed by our collective gasps.

With an influx of survivors sharing their stories and increased media attention, this is an especially good time to raise more awareness about ways in which we can dismantle rape culture.