The word rape originally comes the Latin “rapere” – meaning to abduct, grab or snatch. Somewhere along our linguistic evolution, its meaning morphed to include intimidating, threatening or forcing someone to have sexual intercourse.
Sexual assault replaced the term “rape” in 1983, under the Criminal Code of Canada. In doing so, we are able to recognize that assaults that are sexual in their nature are not about the act of intercourse but exist on a broader spectrum. This can include inappropriate or unwanted touching, harassment, verbal threats, coercion and physically forcing, with or without a weapon, someone to perform a sexual act. Using this term gives validation to those that have experienced sexual violence while broadening our understanding of our intrinsic human rights.
Let us not forget that the most important verb, when navigating our way through intimacy, is consent. Every time, all the time. Consent is sexy!
From high profile cases in the media to Canadian students and faculty calling for change across college and university campuses, the term “Consent” is being put under a microscope. Our understanding of this word raises communication to a whole new level in a fast paced digital world where dialogue can be as quick as a text, tweet or even a sound bite.
Consent forces us to slow down and listen to all that is being communicated. It encourages us to be aware of not only our own boundaries but also of the boundaries of others. It helps us to understand what has been communicated and to find safe space in which to express our needs, wants and desires while respecting the rights of another individual. If you’re really paying attention, consent can only deepen our connection to others; after all is this not the common link that ties the human experience together.
Consent is a big topic in the news these days. What constitutes consent to sexual activity? When and how is consent given? How do we misinterpret consent? These are some of the topics in the news and on many peoples’ minds. This is particularly true for university and college campuses across Canada as our young people head to school in what we hope will be safe environments for them.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) in Toronto has published results from a survey they did on consent. Some of the results are quite startling:
67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one womanwho has been sexually or physically assaulted.
10% of Canadians incorrectly believe that consent is not required between spouses or long-term partners.
21% of people between 18 and 34 incorrectly believe sending an explicit photo, textor email counts as consent.
96% agree that sexual activity must be consensual, two-thirds (67%) do not fully understand how to properly give or get it.
CWF has a clear definition of consent: “Sexual consent is a two-way exchange: it’s an ongoing process of giving and getting permission. This means showing—in words and actions—that you freely agree to participate in a sexual activity. This means continuing to give your permission throughout the sexual encounter. You can revoke your consent at any time.”
Though these may be complicated waters for our youth to navigate it is important that they understand consent and do not leave themselves open to anything other than mutual agreement, freely given, in their sexual activities. This is an important part of having a healthy and respectful relationship.
It has been said that “Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.” Kurt Cobain.
When I saw this quote I was heartened to know that one of my childhood musical influences was outspoken on a subject, which has long driven me to work in the violence prevention field. As I have said before I have known many women in my life affected by this most egregious form of gender-based violence. The basis of all violence is a lack of empathy, concern, entitlement to harm, and lack of consent.
Of course we know that there are thousands of missing women in this country, many of who may be being held against their will. They are kidnapped each year by men and are of course likely being subjected to rape on an on-going basis.
What makes me feel more outright rage though are the vast numbers of women and girls being trafficked each and every year. When I mention human trafficking in circle work, people often think I am referring to women and girls being brought in from Eastern Europe, Africa, or Asia. In fact, the majority of victims in Canada are Canadians. The average age of a girl is trafficked is 13, and the reason that girls are vulnerable is because they have left home because of violence. Violence begets violence. I can scarcely think of a crime other than murder, which is more horrendous for a young girl to experience. Rape is torture. For girls and women confined against their will by pimps, daily life is surely hell. Many become addicted to drugs to soothe the pain of the on-going violation of their bodies.
Globally there are nearly 30 million people being trafficked and held against their will, through more than 460 known trafficking routes. 58% of trafficking globally is for sexual slavery. 75% of the victims of human trafficking are women and girls. 98% of victims for the purposes of sexual slavery are women and girls. 99% of the pimps are men, and in Canada they are profiting to the tune of $280,000 per female in their possession. There are over 2,000,000 children enslaved sexually globally, and the global sexual slavery trade is a 99 billion dollar industry.
So, what can we do? We can teach men not to rape and that women are not property. But how is this going to influence a swiftly spiraling out of control problem? As Ghandhi said with regards to peace, we must start with the children. We must inspire the next generation to become activists against this most terrible of human rights abuses. We must educate about systemic global violence, and there can be no better place to start than with human trafficking.
With great sadness I write about the rape and murder of two girls in Northern India last week. Two cousins ages 14 and 15 went out to the fields in the night to relieve themselves because they have no toilet inside their house. They were brutally gang-raped by a group of men and their lifeless bodies hung from a mango tree.
The girls were from the Dalit caste, considered the lowest of the low in India and also known as ‘untouchables’. They were female, they were young women of colour, they were poor and they were from the lowest caste in their society. To say that they were extremely vulnerable would be a mild description. In their home of Uttar Pradesh State, they count as two of the average of ten rapes reported every day. As we know, many more rapes go unreported due to shame and societal pressures. In India sixty percent of the rapes happen when girls and women have to go into the fields because of a lack of a toilet in their homes.
Under scrutiny by journalists, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said “You’re not in any danger are you? Then why are you worried? What is it to you?” I ask- What is it to all of us? If you believe that all things are connected on planet earth then it matters to all of us that girls and women live with such discrimination, de-humanization, and brutality. My heart aches for these girls and their families.
Closer to home, here in Canada we have over 1,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women. They were female, they were women of colour, they were poor and they were from a group that is discriminated against in our society. The term ‘squaw’ is meant to degrade and de-humanize Aboriginal females.
The circle of pain and heartache stretches from Northern India to Canada and around the globe. I ask again- “What is it to all of us? What are we going to do?”
YES, IT HAPPENS HERE… A Salt Spring Island campaign taking place with the aim to address stereotypes and silence regarding crime and victims of crime in our community. SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project secured the funding from the Federal Ministry of Justice to run the campaign as part of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week April 6-12, 2014.
We wanted to do something that would be meaningful in our community. Our goal was to provide accessible information that would generate thought provoking discussion and awareness. Although we enjoy a high degree of perceived safety here on SSI, crime does affect our community in profound ways. Particularly disturbing are the disproportionate number of children, youth and women who are victims of crime as a result of family violence, sexual abuse and elder abuse. The first level of support for many victims of crime is family and friends. We wanted to illuminate that as well as the resources that are available in our community.
The collective (SWOVA, IWAV, Connecting Generations) has put together three initiatives which will take place over the week. Firstly, a thought provoking public media campaign aimed to generate community awareness, dialogue and education regarding victims of crime in our community. Secondly a youth led social media campaign. The Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project have developed an online contest. Gift Certificates valued at $50 each for local businesses including (Country Grocer, Uptown Pizza, Barb’s Buns, Treehouse and SS Roasting Company) will be awarded to those who get the most “shares” and “likes” for promoting the information/education materials we have produced. Anyone can participate in the contest. Check out the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ssglp) for contest rules. Thirdly, a Resource Fair will be held in the Gazebo at Centennial Park on Saturday, April 12. Virtually all of the on island organizations that provide resources and supports to victims of crime and their families will be there. SSGLP members will be conducting a brief needs assessment, asking islanders what is working on the island, as well as what is missing in our community. Treats will be provided courtesy of Country Grocer! Everyone is invited.
The Yes it Happens Here campaign is a collective effort. Led by SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project, another great program from SWOVA – Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow partnered with IWAV (Island Women Against Violence) and Connecting Generations to make this all happen. Support provided through a grant from the Department of Justice Canada.
The feeling of returning to SWOVA for yet a third year of R+R delivery is a great one. I’m honoured to be a part of the violence prevention movement, and grateful to the women whose efforts have ensured that I can do this work. As we enter into another school year it is apparent that working with youth to talk about gender based violence is needed just as much now as it is has ever been. Over the summer I’ve been struggling to digest media critiques about “rape culture.” This is a tough one because sometimes people do not want to admit that we live in a rape culture. As one student noted in one of our first R+R sessions, cultures of violence are not just here or there affecting some people, they are everywhere and affect us all. I spoke about rape culture in a previous blog (http://www.peaceadvocacy.org/#!writing/cnec) about the Canadian television show Arctic Air, and now I’m going to write about it again, because of the twenty-year old frosh chants glorifying the rape of young women at the University of British Columbia, and Saint Mary’s University. I feel deeply disturbed that young Canadian University students arrive at university ready to expound rape culture. YOUNG is the chant that could be heard on frosh buses and was filmed in other more open venues at the start of this school year on two campuses.
Y is for your sister
O is for oh so tight
U is for underage
N is for no consent
G is for Go to Jail
I feel nauseated that young men could arrive at university with objectionable views that objectify. I feel deeply concerned for the more than one in three women whose lives will be turned upside down by experiencing sexualized violence—rape. I feel charged to keep doing what we do. I feel certain that young men and women can stand up and not be by-standers to rape culture.
As the Globe and Mail noted five days ago in an article on rape culture, the proportions are endemic:
“According to statistics commonly cited by campus sexual-assault centres, no fewer than one in five women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape by graduation. At UBC, which has about 27,000 female students, that would amount to 5,400 women – well over 1,000 per year, if distributed over four years of schooling.”
UBC says it will address the issue with education. I applaud the response from the University that the behaviour will not be tolerated. I’m pleased that they will address individual behaviour with action, but will they address the larger rape culture that caused this to happen (for the last twenty years apparently?). To address the culture at play is to hit the bulls eye. This is not the fault of young men. Of course young men must be held accountable, but we have to recognize that this is a socially learned behaviour just like other forms of violence. Our culture is propagating rape culture, and young men are soaking it up. The explosion of open source free online pornography is affecting young men as early as elementary school. Young women are objectified, and assaulted. But the rape culture goes deeper and is in the mainstream of the Canadian television industry, as well as the American media system. To somehow move away from this violence, which eats at the very fabric—the emotional health and well-being of both men and women—we must talk. We must talk about how we feel and how we can change the rape culture, because it’s getting worse instead of better. Let’s talk.
For more on the university situation this fall here in Canada, check out: