Last week Claudette Sandecki wrote about the Taylor Swift sexual assault trial, and opined that when RCMP give us safety tips on how to not get assaulted or raped, we should just be thankful and follow those tips.
Claudette, would any of these tips have prevented Taylor Swift’s assault?
Most women already move through life in a perpetual state of risk assessment, and we are taught that rape happens on dark paths when you’re alone at night, when in fact it primarily happens with people you know and trust.
Loose clothing and headphones won’t save you if your family member is the one perpetuating the assault, and 80 per cent of sexual assaults in Canada are perpetuated by someone the woman knows (Canadian Women Foundation, 2016).
With these so-called “tips”, the RCMP is suggesting women live in a state of constant vigilance, ready at any moment to defend themselves. (Which we DO, by the way.) Meanwhile society pressures us to be cute, smile more, relax, don’t be a feminazi. It is not possible to be all of these things.
You make the point that there will always be bad people among us. Sexual assault is the only crime in Canada that has not decreased in recent years (White, Globe and Mail, 2017).
I reject the notion that we as a society cannot teach men to respect the autonomy of women’s bodies. We can and must do better. I for one am not going to just shrug my shoulders and say, “well, boys will be boys”.
It is insulting to receive “advice” that does not protect us 80 per cent of the time. Meanwhile we are not believed when we report and our assailants are not prosecuted. As many as one in five sexual assaults (of the only six per cent of all assaults that are even reported to police) are immediately thrown out by police as baseless (White, Globe and Mail, 2017). Of those that are considered credible, only 0.3 per cent result in a conviction.
The justice system is rigged against us by people like Robin “Keep Your Knees Together” Camp and Gregory Lenehan who willfully misunderstand the law and treat victims as the accused. The message is clear – stay silent. If you aren’t the “perfect” victim (read: mythical creature) don’t bother trying to get justice. Lick your wounds and move on.
This context must be considered when you talk about victim-blaming and “tips” that are given by RCMP. You never hear of a man being blamed for his own mugging by police because he once gave away money to someone, or because the mugger could see the bulge of his wallet in his pocket. You don’t hear of police telling people not to drive fancy cars because they are just too tempting to resist. Only sexual assault victims are treated as though they brought it on themselves. Here’s a terrifying statistic – 60 per cent of disabled women will be violently assaulted in their lifetime (Canadian Women Foundation, 2016). Women who are institutionalized, Aboriginal women, and unemployed women are at heightened risk of sexual assault (Canadian Women Foundation, 2016).
The “tips” become more obtuse when you look through the lens of class. For example, “walk, drive, and park your car in a well-lit area.” Cool, what if I don’t have a car? I hope you can see that the women who need protection the most are the very same who fundamentally cannot use the sage, benevolent advice of the RCMP. You can’t compare Taylor Swift to the women of Nunavut.
Swift has attained a level of fame and power that she bears very little risk in pursuing in her case. Even so, the fact that her assailant felt totally comfortable suing her for $3 million dollars because he got fired for assaulting her should tell you something about the state of male entitlement in our society (#notallmen or whatever). For those of us who are not Taylor Swift, we would like the police to put more effort into believing us when we report, and imprisoning our assailants.
As Swift said at her trial “I am not going allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault because it isn’t.”