In Canada the law around sexual assault is designed to protect women from “secondary wounding” that can escalate when the accused holds a position of power and influence. Secondary wounding occurs when people respond to a woman who has been sexually assaulted by making her feel ashamed for coming forward, or blaming her for fabricating the assault. From minimizing the magnitude of the event, to implying the victim desired financial gain or attention, secondary wounding turns the victim into the criminal and forces the woman to defend her allegations.
In Canada any victim of sexual assault can report an incident to the police in complete anonymity. The victim’s name and picture are protected and will not appear in the press or be released by the police unless she chooses to go public. With municipal political figures a complaint should be made to the OPP rather than local police, who risk being in a conflict of interest. By making a complaint with the police the offense gets registered and if another is made the police take the previous offenses into account. Sexual assaults often lack the evidence needed to convict the assailant and without proof many women choose not to go to the police fearing that their lack of evidence will only result in dismissal of their claim and work to empower the accused even further.
While I like to think Toronto is a very progressive city there are still old notions of how women must behave that dominate conservative thinking. Pundits promote the myth that women should never claim sexual assault without proof, ignoring that most sexual assaults occur when eyes are turned the other way. Sadly, if a woman does go public the backlash can be cruel – especially from those who cling to archaic social structures, spewing their opinions with no regard to the secondary harm they cause to the victim.
Social media (facebook/twitter) is creating a more transparent world, challenging the social structures that protected male entitlement. Women who speak out about sexual assault represent an affront to the old way of doing things. The establishment insists women should deal with sexual assault privately through the police — but without proof charges usually get dropped and the criminal walks away justified. Studies show that the recidivism rate (reoccurrence) of sexual assault can be as high as 88.3 per cent.
With enough exposure calling someone out through social media will put the incident on public record and can serve to bring other victims forward. The accused has every right to sue the victim for defamation, but this is unlikely because those who commit assault usually have a lot more to hide than their victims.
Studies have shown that there are shared personality traits among men who commit sexual assault. They are men with terrible role models like Chris Brown, or O.J Simpson; they are men raised to be thugs. They cling to anything that focuses on male strength; they hide their emotions, and claim not to “understand” women. Men convicted of sexual assault have an overwhelming sense of privilege that extends not only to the world around them, but into their personal relationships. The respect they show for others is a performance rather than a true understanding of civility. Their relationships aren’t fulfilling or empowering because they aren’t taught the value of respect for themselves, their influence in the world, or their impact on others. They view women as objects rather than equals. Their exalted belief in their own male perfection dampens their natural drive to mature and develop as individuals. Without this drive emptiness haunts them, drugs and alcohol numb them, and their relationships are chaotic.
These thugs have children, and their daughters grow up believing their fathers’ misconceptions and sharing the same view of success – power, money and men. They use their sexual power over men and cling to it because in a world of male entitlement it’s the only power they have — but as they age their relationships fail, they become less attractive, and they lose their sexual power over men, turning into sad bitter women lashing out at women who don’t conform as they did.
I could never hate someone with this level of emotional poverty. They are people who are raised without ever understanding the importance of civility or respect. They are deprived of ever having strong meaningful relationships. They rarely question themselves or their limited version of the world around them. And they fight against anything that doesn’t conform to their myopic sense of male entitlement.
There are times when it is important to speak out. When a thug attains power their sense of entitlement escalates, they become falsely confident, demanding and taking more from all those around them. They justify their illegal behavior (drugs/assault/drunk driving) by claiming the “stress” of their position drove them to it.
It is never easy to stand up to the tide of male entitlement that floods our society but unless we do there will be a new generation of emotionally stunted thugs who shun challenge, who expect the world to serve them, and who don’t understand how to have respect for themselves or others.
Civility is the glue that holds us together in a safe, fair and just society. Civility requires respect for others, the ability to accept the truth no matter how it is presented. Civility doesn’t force people into silence, or shame those who refuse to follow custom. Civility stops us from harming each other and allows a deeper understanding of the human condition.