April 24, 2009

In the news this week (April 24, 2009)

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:12 pm by sacetalks

A preliminary inquiry has been delayed in case where a man pretended to be a military doctor in order to perform “pelvic exams” on a homeless teen who was staying with him and his wife:

A retired Toronto doctor is charged with four counts of sexual assault after a survivor came forward to report about ongoing abuse that occurred between 1983 and 1990. Police fear there may be more victims yet to come forward:

A 71-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease was sexually assaulted by the driver of the accessible taxi she needed to use to get home:

In Lethbridge, a woman was sexually assaulted in a hospital emergency room. She had taken time to comfort a young boy who was there with an older male relative. After she was moved into the treatment area, the older man found her and sexually assaulted her:

A woman walking through one of Calgary’s Plus-15 indoor walkways at 6:30 in the evening was pushed against a wall and groped by an unknown man:

The man charged in a series of assaults along bike paths in Nepean pled guilty to six counts of sexual assaults and two counts of invitation to sexual touching. His assaults generally occurred in the daytime as students were on their way home from school:

Michael Stratton pled guilty to numerous charges relating to the sexual abuse of girls as young as six years old. Whitby police compiled more than 300 charges against Stratton over three years after his initial arrest. Police seized 60 tapes documenting more than 90 hours of abuse. Stratton obtained the trust of girls and their families, taking them on trips to Canada’s Wonderland and McDonald’s and having girls sleep over at his home:

A man befriended a single mother in Toronto so that he could gain access to her seven-year-old son. He intentionally developed enough trust with the family that the child called him “grandpa” and his mother trusted him as a caregiver when she became ill. Mumford had five previous convictions involving the sexual abuse of boys, but he did not tell the child’s mother about his history:

The former manager of operations services for High River is to be sentenced next week for a vicious sexual assault against a young boy. The man was visiting the child’s mother at her home when the assault took place. Piguet’s lawyer claims his actions were the result of extreme intoxication, not “sexual deviancy”, and is arguing for a minimal sentence:

A Nova Scotia police officer who is already under suspension for two charges of criminal harassment related to stalking has now also been charged with sexual assault. All three charges are based on reports made by three different women:

In all these cases, there is a common thread: in each situation, the survivor trusted the person who assaulted them or was in a situation where they felt safe. All these cases were in the news over the past week and are only Canadian cases, so this is just one small sample.

The prevalence of this sort of situation shows how our ideas of sexual assault are so out of sync with reality. The survivors in these cases weren’t walking alone late at night. There was no man in the bushes with a ski mask or predator in a white van. These ideas about sexual assault deny the reality: people are sexually assaulted because perpetrators choose to assault them. Hospital emergency rooms are supposed to be safe places; doctors are supposed to be trustworthy; women with Alzheimer’s are supposed to be able to take accessible taxis; children are supposed to be able to walk home from school.

The reality is that sexual assault doesn’t follow the tips. Perpetrators don’t look at the list of rules we give women and decide that therefore they can’t commit an assault in the daytime or in a “safe” location. Survivors are people of all ages and genders in all kinds of circumstances. None of them wanted or deserved to be sexually assaulted.


Acquittal in D’Angelo Trial

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:02 pm by sacetalks

The former head of Steelback Brewery, Frank D’Angelo, was acquitted of sexual assault charges this week in Ontario Superior Court. Justice John Hamilton says that he found both the accused and the survivor’s stories credible but that the Crown did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge says D’Angelo was “probably guilty” but this was not enough to convict. Of course, D’Angelo claims he is exonerated. An Ontario Crown prosecutor commented on how difficult it is for women to press charges in sexual assault cases and how the process makes it unlikely that a woman would make a false accusation and carry it through the courts. “Why would a woman claim rape? Why go through it, not just once, but twice (at the preliminary hearing and trial)? Why be cross-examined and have your life exposed? What does she get out of this?”

Cases like this one are often cited by people as evidence that false allegations abound. But the reality is that the judge in this case felt that the accused was probably guilty, but that the legal standard for a guilty verdict was not met. The two are very different things. Our courts require that guilt be proven beyond reasonable doubt. A lack of enough conclusive evidence to convict does not mean that a sexual assault didn’t happen. It simply means that there’s not conclusive proof that it did.

I can imagine that for a judge in this circumstance, it must be frustrating to know that an offender is likely walking free but that our legal standards dictate that a guilty verdict is not appropriate. The standard of guilt is important; it protects people from wrongful conviction and is a vital part of our legal system. However, this case and similar ones are often used by people to claim that false allegations are rampant, when what is actually so common is that there’s just not enough evidence to convict or often even for police to lay charges.


April 17, 2009

This week in the news

Posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events at 9:22 pm by sacetalks

This week has been pretty busy with sexual assault news.  In addition to the blow-up over Observe and Report, there has been a significant number of local media reports on sexual violence.  Here are a few:

In reading these articles, I couldn’t help but notice that many have give great detail on the stranger sexual assaults: what happened, how the survivor tried to resist, etc.  Little detail, however, is given on what happened in the acqaintance sexual assaults.  Given that 86% of survivors know their offenders, I find this a bit puzzling, paricularly in the case about the teacher who plead guilty to child sexual assault.  The article implies the teacher “only touched” his students.  My knowledge from being in the field tells me he did much more than that to even be prosecuted, yet most who read the article will think the girls who lodged the complaint (such a weak word for sexual assault) simply overreacted to an affectionate teacher.  Sigh.

April 16, 2009

Observe & Report

Posted in movies, Popular Culture, Rape Culture at 4:54 pm by sacetalks

Warning: Triggering. The following trailer contains not only strong language, but frequent images of sexual assault that are minimized as what one can only assume is “bad sex.”

From journalists to bloggers to Facebook groups, there’s been a huge outcry against this trailer, the film, and everyone involved in making it. This is a good thing. Products of popular culture – from films to television shows to magazines – are cultural artifacts. There are people who have responded to angry posts and editorials by claiming that it’s “just a movie” and therefore doesn’t create the culture in which we live. The argument, however, is not that a film causes sexual assault. Instead, the reaction is because there is a definite relationship between people who experience sexual violence and the artefacts that belong to the culture in which they live. It would be ridiculous to suggest that there should be no dialogue about the culture in which we engage. I haven’t even read anything that demands the movie be banned – only that the people who made it look at their role as participants in a rape culture.

There are many aspects of the Internet circus around this film that make me sad. One is that there even has to be education on this at all. If someone is too drunk to be awake, that person is too drunk to consent. Even if she wakes up for a second to tell the person to keep going! In Canada, our Criminal Code recognizes that consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated. Simple as that. Really.

What else makes me sad? The disclaimer that people who identify as feminists feel obligated to write or say before their argument. At feministing, Courtney had to give herself credibility by pointing out the ways in which she’s sex-positive. I’ve had to personally explain that I’m not encouraging censorship of any kind. Let’s face it: we live in a patriarchy. Speaking out against rape is somehow wrong and crazy and something only feminists who don’t enjoy sex do. This irritates me. Saying, “rape is bad” should not be a radical statement. Really, it shouldn’t need any sort of qualifier. What’s with our world? Why do we need to qualify our statements so we have some credibility in saying that rape is not okay? (And why is being a feminist something that compromises credibility in the first place?)

Another aspect of the criticism the film has been receiving so far is that it focuses on one scene when the whole trailer is offensive. My coworker mentioned the very first part of the trailer, when Rogen’s character barks at the reporter to refilm because he’s head of security, not just a security guard. While it can be funny at first, when we look at it again, it’s hard not to see the misogyny in there: “oh, you stupid woman! Get my title right!”

Next, there’s the girl being flashed in the parking lot, right before the offender masturbates in front of her. There’s a reason this is offensive: this stuff actually happens. Really. It does. It’s not limited to movies! And the people it effects are, surprisingly, effected. People do wonder why the offender chose them; it is a violation of boundaries; and it does hurt. The way Anna Faris’s character is portrayed, however, is flippant. The trailer suggests that she’s somehow just a crazy, hysterical woman who can’t get a solid grip on reality.

Faris’s general characterization is also ridiculous. We see her adjusting her breasts, chewing her gum in an exaggerated manner, taking multiple shots at dinner… And are meant to believe she’s “just a dumb blonde,” therefore mitigating what happens to her in what some people call a sex scene.

Which brings me to another point: this is not about sex! Positive portrayals of sex in the media are wonderful. I’d love to see more. The trailer, however, does not show a sex scene; it shows a rape scene.

Unfortunately, in a culture in which sex is often configured as conquest, in which sex is confused with sexual assault, in which people who highlight problematic portrayals of rape are labelled “offended feminists,” rape is confused with sex. Pleasure for both partners is taken out of the equation. How can we possibly expect media portrayals of positive sexuality when films like this are deemed acceptable? When people who speak out against it are crazy feminists with no sense of humour? What messages are we sending people, including teens, about what humorous sex looks like?

When we say films such as these are acceptable, we’re saying that rape is acceptable. When we say rape is acceptable, we shouldn’t be surprised when 1 in 3 women in Canada experience sexual assault in their lifetime. And we really shouldn’t be surprised when next time, instead of that “dumb blonde” in the film, it’s a friend, partner, sister or mother.

April 14, 2009

Sexual Assault in the news

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:12 pm by sacetalks

There have been a few high-profile athletes involved in sexual assault charges recently:

Manchester City striker, Robinho;

Wigan Athletic striker, Marlon King;

and of course, Saskatchewan Roughrider’s GM Eric Tillman.

Is there something about the kind of masculinity Western culture demands of its sports that leads to high rates of sexual assaults perpetrated by its members?

In other news, CBC Nova Scotia did an excellent podcast with Irene Smith, the Executive Director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.  Smith discusses if Canadian Law is protecting women from sexual assault.  Scroll down to the April 7th podcast to download and listen.

April 7, 2009


Posted in Popular Culture, Rape Culture tagged , , , , at 9:14 pm by sacetalks

I was somehow roped into seeing the new Liam Neeson film over the weekend. It was either that or He’s Just Not That Into You. I picked the action film, thinking it would irritate me less than the romantic comedy that seems to excuse men who won’t communicate their partners by shaking its finger at silly women who just won’t get the hint. Little did I know that the action film would be rife with sexism, racism and false notions of sexual purity.

Taken masquerades as an action film about a man whose daugther is kidnapped when she’s on vacation in Europe with her friend. In it, Liam Neeson stars as an ex-spy who quit his job in order to develop a closer relationship with his 17-year-old daughter, Kim. When Kim wants to go to Paris over the summer, he’s uncomfortable and initially refuses to sign the form which would grant her permission to leave the country. When arguing with his ex-wife, he explains that he has seen what the world is like and that the silly women (aka his ex-wife and daugther) are just too naive.

He’s proven right when Kim and her friend Amanda are taken by Albanians to be sold into trafficking. He’s fortunately on the phone with Kim when she’s taken. Of course, he saves the day and rescues her.

In Taken, we learn that:

  • Travelling women are simply naive
  • Never get into a cab with a stranger
  • Muslim men are out to rape white women
  • Father knows best
  • Girls should just listen to their dads
  • Virgins will always be rewarded
  • Lying to your parents might get you killed
  • Women are too weak and “hysterical” to save themselves or their children

My mom, who I saw the movie with, didn’t get what the big deal was. “Isn’t it nice to see a father who loves his daugther so much?” she asked. Sure it is. The movie, however, isn’t just about a man who loves his daughter. It’s about scapegoating Muslim men as perpetrators of sexual violence; it’s about excusing controlling behaviour; it’s about framing women as either pure or polluted; it’s about a rape culture.

First Post

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:08 pm by sacetalks

This blog is new.

The Public Education team at the Sexual Assault Centre decided to take the talks we have in our office about news articles, movies, television, magazine articles, etc., into the public realm.  Thanks for visiting!