Survivors of sexual assault experience a great deal of shame and guilt, particularly young women, as they internalize the victim-blaming messages conveyed by the media. This often keeps them from seeking the support they so desperately need. This International Women's Day, we need to encourage more initiatives that are centred on girls and young women. We need to commit to eliminating barriers to accessing support for survivors of sexual violence. And we need to support projects that deconstruct and challenge rape culture. But most importantly, we must listen and believe young women when they speak.
Of the six South Asians I entrusted with this information, four have had similar sexually abusive experiences. This problem needs to be discussed more aggressively within the South Asian community. Parents need to be aware that our community is not immune from sexual predators. They come in the form of uncles, fathers, brothers, and friends. More often than not, it's someone you know.
If I look at a snapshot of my life 18 years ago, I see a young man ravaged by a spiraling alcohol and drug addiction, a man fractured in spirit desperate to claw his way out of the darkest hell of a deep depression. Shortly after entering a treatment program to deal with my addiction issues, I took my first tentative steps into the world of running. Before I knew it, I had found my "people." I had stumbled upon my "tribe."
"Good luck with the little drama queen," they say when they find out I'm expecting a girl. It seems we gals have a rep right out of the womb -- as dramatic, irrational whack-jobs. So, when one of us is assaulted and comes forward, many people instantly think: oh she's exaggerating, seeking attention or revenge or a payday. It's a pattern, after all.
This letter was written by my husband and he has agreed to let me share it here. I hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me. One of the first girls I dated had been raped by a past boyfriend. She went to court and wasn't able to prove that he did anything they hadn't consented to, so he wasn't punished. At the time, she lived in a small town and the gossip forced her family to move away. Before her, I don't think I was really that aware of rape or consent. I'm sure that I'd had the "no means no" conversation in health class but until her it didn't really mean that much to me.
I feel guilty in some weird way for entering into this debate that has been eye-opening for so many people, as it sheds light on how many female victims of sexual assault are among us. As a man, and as a survivor of rape myself, I worry that adding my voice to this might in some way usurp or direct the conversation away from highlighting the abuse of women in our society. But part of me thinks that this shouldn't be a debate about men or women, but rather, it should be about creating a culture in which stepping forward and disclosing sexual assault becomes a much more supportive and empowering experience.
For many years, I have wondered what might be the limit of our tolerance for sexual freedoms. I have no doubt that that tolerance ends when those sexual freedoms infringe on the dominion, to use Ghomeshi's word, of one's own body. Given how difficult it is to determine when that is the case, or is not the case, however, I suspect we will be hearing many more stories of "poor persecuted perverts."
As a survivor of sexual assault and an advocate for people who have been assaulted, I'm already shaking at how I feel this, and the discourse around it, is going to play out. As with any public or private allegations of sexual assault, it's important to remember these things when talking about Jian Ghomeshi in the coming weeks.
My friend and I were telling her boyfriend a few weeks ago about being harassed in places like the grocery store, the mall, on the street, in the bank, at a restaurant, etc. etc. etc. and he was horrified. This is because he is a good person who's never thought about doing that to another person. Then I asked, "Well, what do you do when your friend catcalls someone?" and he said he gets very embarrassed. But he didn't tell the guy to stop.
I'm sorry, I didn't realize that a person required a previous criminal record in order to receive adequate sentencing for years of abuse and rape of a minor. This story has received almost no attention. A friend of mine in Halifax tried to contact the national media, but they just took her name and number and said they would call her back. They never called her back. They either just weren't interested or else felt that it was too contentious -- but given the high-profile treatment other rape cases have received in the media, the latter doesn't seem very likely, does it?
If a woman says "no" to you, you are a rapist. If at any point during sexual contact she says "no," you are a rapist. If the woman expresses a desire for you to stop in any way, including words such as "this is not OK," you are a rapist. If the woman is too far under the influence to verbally give consent to a sexual act, you are a rapist. There is no colour in these rules. These are the black and the white.
While some women would no doubt make plenty of money by running escort services or choosing a few well-paying clients, the majority of those in prostitution do not have that kind of relative bargaining power. And considering that we share a border with the U.S., not only will decriminalization lead to increased demand from Canadian citizens, but also from our southern neighbours.
With every day that passes, the Nigerian schoolgirls could be moving further into dangerous territory of all kinds. Exploitation like the kinds they may be facing can have intensely disturbing effects on a child's social, emotional cognitive and spiritual well-being -- as well as their long-term development.
Today marks one year since I last saw my daughter Rehtaeh alive. The last time we spoke, the last good bye, and the last "I love you." She got out of my car and walked into her mom's house. On the way home she asked if we could stop at McDonald's. How I wish we did, one last time. Rae passed away April 7, 2013. It's been a year-long nightmare but I try to keep hold of myself. Now that I'm outspoken about our daughter's struggles I've unfortunately attracted the attention of the worst society has to offer. They send messages reminding me Rehtaeh is "worm food," she's dead because I failed as a father. But it's mainly through talking that I've learned the difference Rehtaeh made and the impact she's had on others.
First off, and since International Women's Day is around the corner, can we take a minute to define 'rape culture' for those who seem to think it's an irrational and highly charged blanket statement that seeks to vilify all men for all sins? Even men who consider themselves feminists don't often get it, because they too come from a place of unconscious privilege.
Rapists rely on other men to excuse and justify their crimes against women. Other men who'll laugh at their jokes, invite them to parties, play sports with them, introduce them to other women. Men who'll give them jobs, feed them, and help them blame their victims even if it's by indifference. Men, good men, need to stand up and do to rapists and their supporters what we do to child molesters. Imagine the difference it would make if a man who jokes about rape and always doubts victims entered a room to silence, whispers, stares, and looks of disgust from other men. There is no difference between a man who rapes and a man who befriends and defends him.
Do not treat the victim as if they are a person with agency and thoughts and feelings. Tell yourself that it's rational and logical to want to know all sides of the story, though you never want to know the other side, the perpetrator's side, when your house is broken into or your wallet is stolen or your child is hit by a car. Tell yourself that we can never know for sure what happened and since a man's life can be destroyed by accusations of rape, it's best to err on the side of caution. Do not think about the girl whose life was destroyed when she was seven. Above all, never, ever, ever think about the ways that you might be complicit in this.
Rob Anders, a Conservative Member of Parliament in Calgary, has announced that he will introduce a private members' bill seeking to reintroduce the crime of "rape." The proposal has met with some enthusiasm in some circles. That is not surprising. Well before the language of "rape" was excised from the Criminal Code, in 1983, the idea of collapsing all forms of non-consensual sexual touching into an all-encompassing offence of "sexual assault" was deeply controversial. One of the concerns raised is that, by restoring "rape" to the Criminal Code, other forms of sexual assault will be perceived as less significant.