A recently released statistic from Global News, showed that one in five Canadians still believe that if a woman is drunk, they are inviting sexual assault. This isn’t your grand-dad’s statistic here — this is the average Canadian’s opinion (nearly one quarter surveyed were between 18 and 34). These ever prevalent opinions are what keep women (and men, I might add) from coming forward when they are sexually assaulted.
It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to water down the situation and validate it. Are we afraid to talk about rape? It sure looks that way when the average person tries to dance their way around it. Think about it. If you heard that a girl at a party was sexually assaulted, you might have a moment — even just a passing thought — in which you question the reality of it. “What was she wearing? Was she flirting with him? Have they hooked up before?”
These, and many other questions, seem to flash through most of our minds as we look for a reason to excuse the offence. The main issue, it seems, is that this grey area allows us to search for exclusions to the rule. We allow accounts to be overlooked because of the varying degrees of seriousness that we assign to assault: maybe they were dating, maybe she was flirting, girls can’t assault guys, she was wearing a slutty dress, he bought her a drink and she didn’t seem to mind, and so on.
By creating these myths of misplaced blame in sexual assault cases, victims are not given the platform and, thus, the courage to speak out about the crimes committed against them. The University of Toronto released a campaign website called Ask First in an attempt to debunk many of these common myths we create (many of which I’ve listed above).
A highly notable statistic this campaign points out is that up to 85 per cent of sexual assault victims are violated by someone they know or are close with — many of the victims are in a relationship with their aggressor. This is just one of the many points people continually choose to ignore when they hear about abuse and assault, because it is so easy to push the issue aside and excuse the crime.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Assault is assault, and there is no grey area. If someone has something done to them that they have not consented to, it constitutes as assault. Period.
The National Center for Victims of Crime defines sexual assault as taking many forms, including “attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person’s consent.”
The average Canadian needs to stop looking at the in-between and needs to start seeing the clear black and white line that divides what is and what isn’t sexual assault. It may be human nature to question the validity of things, but it is not right to ostracize, dehumanize and question a victim to the point of silence.