Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How To Change Our Rape Culture

Preventing Violence Against Women/Reclaiming Our Safety

Teenage girl gets drunk with some of her high school's football players, passes out, and is sexually violated. The high school football players are charged, tried, and convicted of rape. The sympathies of much of the town, schoolmates, and even the media is given to the convicted rapists.

Yes, this is what has happened in Steubenville, Ohio, in a case resonating throughout the world. Oh, the poor young men whose lives have been ruined by this conviction. They had such bright futures.

What about the victim? Well, most of the attention was on the fact that "Jane Doe" was drunk. Yes, she was. Which makes these boys' actions even more despicable, taking such physical power over her in such a vulnerable state.

This isn't a Steubenville problem. It is a problem of our entire society which blames the victim and slut-shames and puts jocks up on pedestals. Somehow, the ability to run fast or catch a ball or slide around on ice chasing after a compressed chunk of rubber makes a person superior. Physical prowess is upheld as an attribute of masculinity.

Preventing Violence Against Women/Reclaiming Our Safety

If only we cared as much about developing sensitivity and respect in young men, especially towards those who may be vulnerable. If only we taught boys not to rape, instead of only teaching girls how to avoid being raped.

We live in a rape culture. How can change happen? When emotional and intellectual traits in men are venerated as much as physical power. When a victim can be a victim without blame. When victims can come forward without fear of retribution on her reputation.

International Women's Day March 2013

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Re-Victimizing Victims

Preventing Violence Against Women/Reclaiming Our Safety

A major news story in Edmonton last week involved a young Aboriginal woman who called the police to report an assault. The EPS who arrived at the motel room decided to act upon an old warrant and arrest her. According to the youth court worker who visited her in custody, the signs of her assault were visible. As well, he attests that the violations for which she was being held should not have resulted in jail time (read his blog post on the matter here.)

It was this youth court worker who broke the story on Twitter. His series of tweets resulted in much discussion and outrage, and yet the mainstream media ignored it. APTN did, however, and the rest of the media followed suit shortly thereafter.

Regardless of how the actions of the EPS are explained or justified, what happened is a major public relations faux pas on a number of levels. First of all, the subject in question is a young Aboriginal woman. This incident furthers a public perception that there are two levels of justice: one for Aboriginals, and one for everyone else. One need to only recall the incidents concerning Randy Frying Pan and the "sweatbox" case.

Secondly, what happened last week is an example of how a victim tries to access services, only to be re-victimized by those who should be helping her. Having a criminal record or a warrant should not be a barrier to access. I shudder to think that there are potentially those who are afraid to get help because they might get in trouble.

Re-victimizing victims is nothing new. Think of the sexual assault survivor who no one believes. The bullied child who is told she is just being overly-sensitive. The abused spouse who finds no community or social support in leaving the situation.

Policing is a difficult job which often involves making decisions on one's feet. I have known situations where the police have been wonderful and truly helpful. However, in this case, their actions and the resulting ripple effect is damaging and dangerous.