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Archive for the ‘Violence Against Women’ Category

I received an email from a nice fella named Chris a little while ago, in response to my posts On Rape and How to Avoid Becoming a Rapist. He agreed to let me use our emails for a post. Here’s some of what he had to say in his initial email:

First of all, I am a survivor of rape and sexual abuse myself and concerning the post titled “On Rape”, I also believe the same as you, that the blame rests ultimately with the rapist, however, although it may not completely remove the risk, there are certain things you can do to reduce the risk of being raped. I hate the fact myself, but using common sense, personal safety guidelines will reduce the risk of rape. I follow these guidelines, so I am not a man who is imposing these guidelines on just women.

 

 

  1. If you live in shared accomodation or with parents, a partner or spouse, always let them know where you are going, who with, and what time you will be back.
  2. Stick to it. It is not looking to be treated like a child, it is giving the people who care about you the respect they deserve. If you keep the habit of sticking to it and you suddenly don’t get back for that time, they will know that something is not right and will start trying to find out what happened and may even start looking for you.
  3. If, for some unplanned reason you know you are going to be late, let them know so they won’t get worried.
  4. Don’t go out alone. Go with a friend, or even better, more than one friend. As well as the possibility of making the night more enjoyable, there is truth in the saying “Safety in Numbers”.
  5. Not telling you not to enjoy yourself, but if you drink alcohol, don’t go out and drink so much that you don’t know where you are and/or what you are doing. If you collapse in a coma due to overdrinking, it provides a simple and easy means for someone to take advantage of the situation. Drink also lowers inhibitions and may lead you to say yes when you wouldn’t if you was sober.
  6. Be aware of your surroundings. If you feel unsafe or just plain uncomfortable with your surroundings, call a cab home or to another place, informing your housemates, parents, spouse or partner of the change of venue. It is better to be safe than sorry.
  7. I agree that just because you are wearing a low cut [possibly tight fitting] top and a mini skirt, it doesn’t mean you are saying “come and have sex with me”, however, I hate this fact but remember that although you may not be inviting sexual advances, a potential rapist may not see it that way. Again, if you get unwanted attention and you feel uncomfortable about it, go somewhere else. (Home or another place, informing your parents, spouse or partner of the change of venue).
  8. Call a taxi to go anywhere you want to during all hours of darkness. Don’t walk. Walking at night increases the danger as you are less likely to spot impending dangers.

I say MAKE YOUR FEELINGS CLEAR. I would never jump to the defence of a rapist, but no human person should be expected to be able to read minds. In court, there sometimes has been something along the lines of reasonable belief that consent is being given. If someone is making sexual advances you don’t want, say so. Say no, say stop, say anything to get your point across that you don’t want it.

 

Be verbal! Saying “No” removes any reasonable doubt about what you want.

To which I responded:

I hear what you are saying, and I think that generally, all of this is great practical advice for anyone. What concerns me most about the way rape and sexual violence is treated in society is that the emphasis is so often on the victim/survivor, and what he/she did or didn’t do or say, that it creates a bit of a ruse, and the ones who are actually always to blame, the rapists, are forgotten, or enough doubt has been cast on the actions of the survivor that the rapist gets away with it. What the victim/survivor did or didn’t do isn’t the issue – it is what the rapist did that matters. And although practical advice, and self-defense, can certainly help some people to avoid becoming a rape victim/survivor, I think what is needed is a more comprehensive social plan to stop people from becoming rapists. And I think this must begin with raising the status of women, who are the paradigmatic victims of sexual violence, in combination with punishing crimes of sexual violence more severely.

While I agree that we must be careful to protect ourselves from sexual violence, I also know that this isn’t always enough. The vast majority of rapes are committed by people known to the victim/survivor, and quite often someone the victim/survivor trusts. All kinds of people become victims of sexual violence, in all sorts of surroundings and circumstances. Putting too much emphasis on what potential victims could/should do to avoid attacks of sexual violence has a corollary in logical terms: it also means emphasizing what current survivors could/should have done differently that might have preempted their attack. This just isn’t fair, because even the most cautious person can still find themselves in harm’s way, and holding a survivor even partially responsible for behaviour that led up to an attack does blame them for the attack. This can also lead to restrictions placed on those *most likely* to be victims of an attack, which will always be women – restrictions that could seriously limit freedom of participation at an equal level in society, simply on the basis of gender. This kind of thing would also further marginalize male victims/survivors or sexual violence, who *should* be more able to defend themselves against an attack. It isn’t fair to focus on what the survivor could have done differently. It ultimately doesn’t matter. Ultimately, rapists are the ones who are responsible for rape. Which means that rape can only really be prevented by rapists. That’s a scary thought!

To which Chris responded:

Please don’t think I am taking any of the blame away from rapists etc. and I am not trying to apportion any blame on current survivors of rape and sexual assaults.

What I was doing in my email was just outlining what can be done to prevent (as far as possible) rape and sexual assault from the potential victims side. Reducing the risk even slightly, in order to prevent at least one more victim is what I am aiming for here. I believe that’s all individuals like us can hope to achieve at the present moment in time. Changing society’s role in rape prevention would need to involve collective work by large groups of the general public, professional organisations, and government bodies, all working together to achieve the common goal.

 

Attrition rates surrounding rape cases in court are extremely small in comparison to the attrition rates of other sexual offence cases and I believe you are right in what you are saying what causes the low figures, and letting the rapists get acquitted.

 

I do believe that there is work being done to try and create an effective social plan to stop people from becoming rapists, but really and truthfully, I feel that unless potential future rapists start to recognise that they could be future rapists and seek the necessary help, I don’t think it would matter what preventative therapies were available. I have no knowledge of what methods there are and what they involve to try and rehabilitate offenders and potential future perpetrators, but I believe that potential future perpetrators would require to be able to feel the need to seek the professional help, and feel that they are able to without fear of repercussions, in order to try and prevent it. Bearing in mind my lack of knowledge in this area, I believe that to recognise, and admit, that there is a possibility that they could be future offenders, is already half way there to being able to prevent it before the potential sets in and get out of hand.

 

Another comment I would like to talk about here is that you said “….This kind of thing would also further marginalize male victims/survivors or sexual violence, who *should* be more able to defend themselves against an attack.” Now I am not sure where you are coming from on the should be able to defend themselves bit, but it is a common belief in society which a lot of people including myself are trying to change.

 

I don’t know if you believe men should be able to defend themselves, but in male rape cases, along with the other common problems associated with rape of women during the event, the male victims often suffer the same physical paralysis effects of the mind when they realise they are overpowered. Plus, although not all male rape cases do, I am led to believe that most rapes of adult men involve more than one assailant, with one or more people preventing a struggle by restraining and/or pinning arms and legs, whilst the another person rapes the man. As for boys and young men, of course they will not be able to overpower a full grown adult no matter whether the assailant is male or female.

To which I responded:

Yeah, I feel it, preventing rape by making people less likely to become victims. I just don’t think that’s enough. People still get raped even when they follow all the advice, take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray, etc. The only way to stop rape is to stop rapists. I mean, yeah, we have to be mindful about our personal safety, but sometimes we jsut can’t avoid becoming a target – and a victim – no matter what we do. That’s not saying we shouldn’t try to avoid it, but you know what I mean.

Not long ago in the southern states, I want to say Georgia but I’m not sure, they changed the law so that consent could not be withdrawn once sexual contact had begun. So no matter how uncomfortable, violent, degrading, or painful the encounter becomes, once consent has been given, it can’t be taken back. So agreeing to have sex means agreeing to anything and everything, no matter what. It’s a wonder anyone has sex anymore.

Oh dear, no I certainly don’t think that men should be able to defend themselves from sexual violence more than women should. I wasn’t clear in my previous email, I apologize. I meant that that is the common perception, which is hogwash, and leads to some serious marginalization for male rape survivors. Defending oneself from sexual assault is something nobody should have to do; criticizing how people choose to do it or not to do it is, I think, a horrible mistake. People have to make the best decision for their survival in the situation.

So, that’s the crux of it. Do we help people prevent becoming victims, or do we prevent people from becoming rapists? Or both?

oh, and Ruxandra has an article up about this very subject. I loved it.

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I’ve been watching TV shows about crime for years. I have always really liked these shows – anything to do with police or lawyers or criminalists or profilers. I’ve watched them faithfully – all the Law and Order shows, the CSI shows, the other stuff that comes along about serial killers and missing persons and bad-ass lawyers.

Well, tonight I made a decision to stop watching these shows. I watched a particularly disturbing episode of Law and Order: SVU, in which a serial rapist was targeting the same victims over and over again and tracking their ovulation so that he could impregnate them. Then, I watched an episode of Criminal Minds in which a guy kidnapped three teenage girls and held them until they turned on each other and one of them was killed out of desperation and sensory deprivation.

Now maybe it’s because the moon is in my sign today, or something, but I was really overwhelmed by these shows. And it reminded me of something Twisty has said about Law and Order: SVU being basically a show that exploits and pornifies the sexual torture of women for our entertainment. And you know, I think she’s right. Every episode there’s another mutilated and raped female body on display. But the show is never about the victim, not really, even despite the word being in the name of the show. It’s about the crazy guy who’s torturing women sexually. And look, isn’t he creepy and weird and twisted and insane and interesting. And entertaining. And it all just pushes sexual violence further out of the realm of something that happens everyday in far less sensational ways, and it makes us less sensitive to it in real life. And I don’t want to be desensitized to the occurrence of sexual violence in society.

So that’s it for me. I am not going to subject myself to watching these TV shows anymore. I’m done with these explicit, graphic crime shows and the glorification of psychotic rapists and killers for entertainment purposes. DONE.

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Sage just came up with an AWESOME tag, inspired by the discussion on my post, Killing Prostitutes. I encourage ALL of you to take this chance to participate in the political process and demand your political representatives listen to our voices on this important issue. If you never do another tag, please – do this one.

Here’s the steps:
1. Copy the following into a word file.
2. Fill in the blanks and edit as desired or completely re-write (a one page limit is best). A little research on your own area makes it even better.
3. Print
4. Get a few signatures or just sign it yourself.
5. Mail it. No stamps are necessary to the really big guns. Snail mail counts more than e-mail, so the extra walk to the box is worth it.
6. Tag five people (on-line or otherwise).
7. Repeat as necessary.

*****

Address here. Options might include your Mayor, MP, MPP, Prime Minister, other party leaders, Governor, President, what-have-you, and most important, your local newspaper. Even if the issue isn’t part of the addressee’s portfolio, a surge of letters will still have a necessary impact.

Dear / To the Honourable….

In light of the devastating slayings of 26 women in Vancouver, another 20 in Edmonton, and 5 in Ipswich, England, (and any others you can think of in your area) your government must do more to protect women. If one woman is in danger, none of us are safe.

It’s unlikely that legalizing prostitution would be favourable to the voting public at this point in time, but there are several other useful alternatives that will guarantee you laurels from many fronts.

Let’s stop making perpetrators. All the men who commit these types of heinous crimes are found to have been raised in abusive homes. What is necessary as a solid foundation of any society is easy access to help of any kind for all parents of young children. No child should be living in poverty in a country as wealthy as _________. Any parent or child being abused should have easy access to a safe house they can live in for as long as needed. Teens abused need safe places to stay and be nurtured for extended periods.

In _________(city), there is / isn’t a safe house for abused women, but it only holds ______ women and children, and they can only stay ___________before they have to find someplace else to go. The theory is that they need to learn to fend for themselves. The reality is, if they’re there in there in the first place, they likely don’t have other supports. Imagine having no access to your husband’s bank account, no money of your own, small kids, and the only place available for you to live is run by an abusive tyrant. You’re stuck.

This should not be anybody’s fate in a compassionate country where it could be so easy to solve this problem by placing a priority on funding for safe house space, trained counsellors (emotional, career, and financial), affordable housing, and daycare spaces.

And to stop perpetrators in their tracks, we need stronger legislation around sexual abuse and violence against women, domestic and otherwise. If a rapist gets two years, it sends a message to all men that women and children are not valued by our country’s legal system. Don’t you believe women and children deserve a life free from abuse?

We’ll look forward to hearing your proposal to address this emergency before the next election.

Sincerely,

*****

Please folks, do this tag. Let’s get our voices heard on this. I tag everyone who reads this post. Short of that, I tag Marc Andre, Aulelia, Max, Lulu, L>T, Renegade, Geo, Pinko Julie, Ruxandra, Winter, Belledame, Pragya, Marcella, Laverne, Daniela, and Aspazia. I know, I’m being really demanding this time – but dammit, this is important! If we don’t tell our politicians what we want them to do, they will do what THEY want to do – and that hasn’t exactly turned out so hot. So flex those democratic muscles and get going!

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In Vancouver, Robert William Pickton is about to stand trial for the first 6 of 26 murder charges. (A date has not been set for the remaining victims.) All of the women Pickton is charged with killing were sex workers. Their remains were found on Pickton’s farm in Port Coquitlam. The first 6 victims for which Pickton is being tried are:

  • Sereena Abotsway,
  • Mona Wilson,
  • Andrea Joesbury,
  • Brenda Wolfe,
  • Georgina Papin and
  • Marnie Frey.

The remaining victims are:

  • Jacqueline McDonell
  • Diane Rock
  • Heather Bottomley
  • Jennifer Furminger
  • Helen Hallmark
  • Angela Jardine
  • Patricia Johnson
  • Heather Chinnock
  • Tanya Holyk
  • Sherry Irving
  • Inga Hall
  • Sarah de Vries
  • Tiffany Drew
  • Cindy Feliks
  • Diana Melnick
  • Debra Jones
  • Wendy Crawford
  • Andrea Borhaven
  • Cara Ellis
  • Kerry Koski

The total count of missing women in the Vancouver sex trade is 60.

Same thing is going on in Edmonton, by the way. Did you hear?  Probably not. 20 women have been killed in Edmonton within the last 20-odd years. Again, mostly sex workers. One man has been arrested for 2 of these killings. His name is Thomas George Svekla. Most of these murders have not been solved, and police think there is more than one murderer involved. The victims in Edmonton are:

  • Bonnie Lynn Jack
  • Theresa Merrie Innes
  •  Dolores Brower
  • Ellie May Meyer
  • Charlene Gauld
  • Rachel Quinney
  • Katie Sylvia Ballentyne
  • Debbie Lake
  • Melissa Munch
  • Monique Pitre
  • Edna Bernard
  • Ginger Lee Bellerose
  • Kelly Dawn Reilly
  • Cara King
  • Jessica Cardinal
  • Joyce Hewitt
  • Joanne Ghostkeeper
  • Elaine Ross
  • Lorraine Wray
  • Mavis Mason
  • Bernadette Ahenakew
  • Georgette Flint
  • Melody Joy Reigel
  • Gail Cardinal

Back to the Pickton Trial. This is the largest serial killing in Canadian history. It will be heavily monitored by the media.  Pickton will be the focus of hundreds of in-depth profiles, speculation, disgust. The women he killed will be grouped together in bunches, their identities a blur. The character at the centre of this trial is not any of them. It is Pickton. The public will want to know how his mind works, why he killed all those women, why he targeted prostitutes, how he killed them, how long it took him to amass such a collection of killings, how he managed to elude the police for so very long, whether he hates women.

this is a problem.

In my mind, the real story is not this man. It is the story of the women. The story here, really, is that 80 women have likely been killed. In two cities alone. In Canada, a country that doesn’t have that high a crime rate. And all of them were prostitutes. No one will ask how they ended up as street-level prostitutes, what drove them to leave their homes and families, what their lives were like. What happened to these women? They were all killed by Pickton, yes, but they all shared something else, and they shared it not just with each other but with millions of women across the world, whose only resource is their body, their sex, in a world where if that’s all you’ve got, nobody is there to help you, but a dozen are there every night to exploit you. The story is about why it took almost 30 years to find out who was making these women disappear, why nobody noticed that 60 women were slowly going missing, slowly ending up on Pickton’s farm. These women were not people – they were prositutes, throw-aways, easy prey for Pickton, for Svekla, for other men. No one would notice they were gone. No one would care.

This is how we treat our women.Read about the Vancouver Murders here. Read about the victims here. Read about the Edmonton Murders here.

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This week, it came out that a Saudi national , Taher Ali Al-Saba, who had been accused of sexual assaulting two minors, has left the country, despite not having a passport.

The Saudi Embassy has confirmed that Al-Saba has left Canada, but won’t say anything further, about how or when this occurred.  Because Canada has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, it is highly unlikely that Al-Saba will ever return to be tried for his crimes.

Great to know the justice system works so well.

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I noticed this little gem in the local newspaper this morning over breakfast. I almost choked on my Fruit Loops.

At first, I was pleased to see that a judge in Cape Breton had sentenced Raymond Shawn Leroy to 4 years in jail for rape, considering most rapists get off a lot lighter than that. Apparently, the rapist kidnapped his victim, beating and raping her for ‘several hours’ – leaving her with ‘swollen, blackened eyes, facial swelling, and other injuries.’ However, he was found not guilty of unlawful confinement… so I guess the victim could have left at any time, according to the court.

The prosecutor, Shane Russell, said the victim was “humiliated, beaten, raped, and threatened. She was subject to extreme violence and disrespect.” In the article, however, the victim was described as being recently released from a detox facility. I suppose this is significant somehow, although the press is forbidden from publishing the name of the victim ‘along with any information that could lead to her identification.’ Maybe I’m missing something, but what does the victim’s recent release from a drug treatment program have to do with her being raped? Oh right – so we feel less sorry for her.

Finally, the nastiest part of the article came. I’ll quote directly:

While noting the photographs spoke volumes about the attack, defense lawyer David Campbell said since she did not file a victim impact statement, it can be inferred she suffered no lasting psychological damage.
“It looks a lot worse than it actually was,” said Campbell, adding his client is remorseful for his actions.

Sure, being kidnapped, beaten, and raped isn’t as bad as all that, and is easily forgotten. I’ll buy that. No big deal, right girls?

These comments obviously minimize and dismiss the effects of rape on the psychological health and wellbeing of survivors of rape. Why is this so dangerous? It encourages rape, in so many words, by affirming that victims can easily get over their rape experiences. It also adds to the support for light sentencing of rapists, making women less and less safe in our communities. This blatant hostility toward women, and tacit condoning of rape, is not acceptable. This woman deserves to be taken seriously, and given a modicum of respect – not subjected to ridiculously flawed logic from some misogynistic asshole defense lawyer whose sour grapes over losing his case are staining his shirt.

Something tells me that this wasn’t the first time he attacked this woman verbally, but this time it is publicly, in print, and her voice is absent. Someone has to speak out. I’m writing a letter to the editor in protest of this treatment of a rape survivor by David Campbell. Join me: letterstoeditor@hfxnews.southam.ca

*quotes from “Man sentenced to four years for sexual assault” by Steve MacInnis, published in The Daily News on Wednesday, January 10, 2007.

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Hi all –

I’ve been included in the 14th Carnival Against Sexual Violence, along with many other wonderful writers, currently being hosted at Abyss2Hope. Please join me in reading and blogging about this important subject.

TG

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