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Male victims of sexual assault often ignored

On Feb. 8th, a 28-year-old woman in Vaughan was charged with sexually assaulting a male student. The allegations are being investigated by the York Regional Police after someone came forward with information about a supply teacher for the York Catholic District School Board who had a sexual relationship with a teen between October and December 2017.

The supply teacher was employed occasionally since 2014. She is being charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation.

Stories like these are rarely reported. The idea of a woman sexually assaulting a man is something many can’t fathom, but it does exist. According to a 2012 UCLA study, 38 per cent of all rape and sexual assaults are committed against men. The Canadian Children’s Rights Council, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of Canadian children, estimates that 86 per cent of these victims are dismissed, which leads to an increasing amount of unreported incidents.

There is also evidence that the number of sexual violence that occurs to men and women in their teens is rather similar — a difference between one in five and one in four.

“While the majority of sexual abuse is by males on females, anyone can be a victim of sexual trauma,” the men’s trauma centre in Victoria, B.C. says on their website. “Research suggests that between 20 and 30 per cent of all male children are sexually abused before the age of eighteen.”

“Despite the media stories of male survivors of abuse that have come out over the past few years, many people remain unable or unwilling to respond to this problem and the long term damage it creates both individually and at a societal level.”

The stigma associated with male victims of sexual assault if much different than that of women. While people think a woman may have “deserved it” for leading a guy on or acting in a way that could be described as promiscuous, it is assumed a man is enjoying whatever experience he is thrust into. That complaining about being forced to have sex is something a man would never do, and therefore it is not possible for a man to be raped or sexually harassed.

While it may be more rare for an adult man to be sexually victimized, it does happen, and those cases should be treated with the same level of respect and consideration as other stories shared in the MeToo movement.

Why consent should be included in #MeToo movement

A woman has made allegations of sexual misconduct against television actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. In her claim, she says the two went out on a date and when she indicated, using “nonverbal and verbal cues” that she wasn’t interested in having sex with him, he tried to seduce her over and over again. Eventually, he called her an uber and she went home.

Ansari has told the media that “it was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.”

While the allegations may not be as serious as those against Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, these kind of stories do expose an important issue of consent, or basic respect, on the dating scene. The criticism this woman is receiving online is reason enough why this story is so important. People are saying this woman should have been clearer about her sexual desires, and that it wasn’t fair to Ansari to ruin his career over something he didn’t know he did wrong. An opinion columnist in the New York Times actually said the only thing Ansari is guilty of is not being a mindreader.

Essentially, those responding to this story are saying that because this woman didn’t cry out “no” and push Ansari away, this story has no value to the #MeToo movement. I disagree.

This story is one many women, and probably a few men, are familiar with. Their date indicates a need to slow down, and are promptly ignored. You kind of like the person, so you try to express your consent in a different way. You do this by joking around, distracting your partner, suggesting alternative activities, and finally, by saying you aren’t in the mood. This can result in anger, frustration, embarrassment, and sometimes lead to dangerous situations.

I was dating a man for a few weeks I met online. He was funny, smart, and nice — pretty much exactly what I was looking for. During conversation at dinner, my date invited me back to his apartment. I said that while I liked him, I wanted to take our relationship slow. I like to really get to know a potential partner before jumping into bed with them, especially considering the dangers of the online dating scene. I was about as clear as a person could be about my romantic intensions, and my date seemed understanding. He said there were no strings attached to the invitation, and we could simply watch a movie, drink coffee, and spend more time with each other.

Isn’t that sweet?

Of course, once I arrived at the apartment, there was no coffee. He did put on a movie, but as soon as the opening titles started scrolling along the screen, he was blowing in my ear (is that a thing!!??). The next thing I knew, his hand was on the back of my head, pushing me towards his face. I broke away a few times, joking about how we were going to miss the movie. A few minutes later, his hand was on my cheek, guiding my face back to his.

I consider myself a strong and independent woman, but when I was confronted with such an uncomfortable situation, I am ashamed to say that I lied. Instead of telling my date that his behaviour was unacceptable, especially considering our conversation at dinner, I looked at my phone and said “my dad just called me. My dog is badly injured and he needs help lifting her into the car. I’ve got to run.” And out the door I went.

All that is to say it is not as easy to say “no” as people may think. When you are alone with a person in their home, you are vulnerable. Your partner has the advantage.

It’s also important to remember that consent is not the absence of the word “no”. Consent, according to the Oxford dictionary, means to give “permission for something to happen.” In the case of a sexual relationship, both parties must clearly agree to a sexual act and each person has the right to say no. Consent should never be assumed or implied.

Again, let me stress, consent is not defined by the absence of the word “no”. And that is why this conversation should be a part of the #MeToo movement. Understanding this definition is part of that patriarchal mentality women are trying to change. It is something that will take time and needs to be exposed in order for people to learn.

Could Ansari really not understand this woman’s non-verbal cues? It is absolutely possible. Should he be punished professionally and personally for his actions? I’m not too sure. His reaction is probably similar to hundreds of thousands of men out there who were in similar situations. Men who don’t understand what those non-verbal cues mean and are subject to retaliation in the media.

For those men, here is a very simple guideline: just ask. Ask your partner if it is okay to kiss them. Ask if they want to go to the bedroom. Ask if they are willing to have oral sex. Always ask. When you ask, you will get a firm answer. And continue to ask! Is this okay? Are you okay with me touching you there?

It’s really rather simple. And no, it doesn’t detract from the mood. Trust me, it’s actually quite attractive to have a man stand by your door, saying “you look absolutely beautiful, I would like to kiss you. Can I?”

Sexual assault and sexual harassment within industry and the workplace may be the foundation of the #MeToo and TIME’S UP movement, but it shouldn’t end there. Let’s add consent to the discussion.

Why is no one describing Celine Dion’s stage mobbing as assault?

Iconic Canadian singer and businesswoman Celine Dion was mobbed by a female fan.

In the middle of one of her concerts in Las Vegas, a fan rushed the stage and grabbed the singer, gyrating against her body with her legs wrapped around her waist. The woman was obviously drunk and it is unclear how she got past security.

Dion handled the fan like the magical woman she is. She calmed the woman down, sent security away, and proceeded to speak with the woman. “I’m glad you came up on stage tonight,” Dion said. “I’m glad that you wanted to come closer to me.” The exchange took about five minutes before the woman was escorted off stage.

“Some people go through a lot,” Dion tells the crowd. “And some people need to talk, and I want to say thank you to all of you, because for maybe five minutes we have given this lady a moment to talk.”

Dion is an incredibly classy and kindhearted woman, so it’s not surprising that she handled this challenging moment in such a dignified way. But, what was surprising is the media’s description of the event.

“Celine Dion uses the power of love to deal with drunk fan”. “Celine Dion is a model of kindness”.

While it is true that Dion was a model of kindness, she was also a victim of assault — something no one seems to be talking about.

In an age where women are standing up and telling their #MeToo stories, the media needs to be harsher in exposing instances, no matter how small, in which women and men are being harassed. This fan did not have Dion’s permission to touch her or gyrate against her body.

Sexual assault is described as sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent. Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. Gyrating against another person’s body would absolutely fall within these definitions.  

In the video, at one moment, Dion asks the woman “can I touch you”, and she takes her hand and walks her to centre stage. There was consent in that moment for that particular form of physical contact. There was no consent for this fan to start humping Dion on stage, even if Dion was open to keeping her on stage. Just like an invitation into someone’s house isn’t an invitation for sex, an invitation on stage is not an invitation for physical contact.

I also wonder if these headlines would have read differently if the fan was a man? Is it less of an incident because it was a woman gyrating against another woman?

If 2018 is the year of TIME’S UP — it has to be universal. Just because you are a celebrity or an entertainer, doesn’t mean it is okay to be attacked by a fan. It doesn’t mean you should have to handle it with dignity and class. And it doesn’t mean the rules are different for men and women.

This incident, no matter how compassionately it was dealt with, was assault — and it’s time to start describing it that way.

Featured image by celebrityabc.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Dear Santa: the women of Toronto, Canada, deserve more

Dear Mr. Kringle,

The head office of Women’s Post is situated in Toronto; therefore much of our news coverage occurs in this city. Toronto is our home — and we can see it needs a little extra help. The staff at Women’s Post is hoping that you, Nick, may be able to help us all out.

This is what is on our Christmas list:

More women on boards: This was a topic of great debate throughout 2017 (yay!), but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. The European Union announced a proposal to make it mandatory to have 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. This, unfortunately, does not include managerial or executive roles on boards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, very few boards are gender equal (and even less female dominated). Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women. A new organization was formed this year to help tackle this issue.

Nick, can you please help us! Instead of dreaming of sugar plums this year, can you help private and public leaders, CEOs, and board executives dream of a company that represents everyone? Let’s have people of all genders, sexualities, and races represented on boards — and not just in non-executive roles!

More funding for things that matter: Infrastructure, transit, education — three things that will help our country, and the people who live in it, grow. All levels of government have pledged a certain amount of money to help municipalities develop new routes and lines for public transportation, but it’s not nearly enough. People are desperate for housing, whose prices have skyrocketed throughout the year in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto with no hint of dropping back down.

Sure, the federal government has announced funding for a National Housing Strategy, and $4.8 billion in transit funding has been earmarked for Toronto, but all of these promises come with a) a timestamp and b) a political commitment. Politics always gets in the way. For example, the Ontario government refused to allow Toronto to collect money from tolls because it could affect votes in the 905 area.

Canada is a prosperous country, and Toronto is better off than other cities. But, there is still work to be done and our politicians may need a little bit of help. How about it Nick?

More women in politics: Canada may have a gender-equal cabinet within the federal government and the Ontario government, but there more to gender parity than representation within a single entity. For beginners, women are still underrepresented as elected representatives to begin with, sitting at only 26 per cent nationally.

More women need to be encouraged to run for all aspects of public government. Politics are unforgiving for women. There seems to be some strange double standard in which women are questioned about their capabilities (and wardrobe) much more than men. This scrutiny makes it very difficult for women to commit to a public service campaign. What if you change that Nick? Can you remove the gendered lens through which people view politicians? That would go a long way to encouraging more women in politics.

End sexual assault and harassment: Forget the celebrity aspect of the #MeToo campaign for a second and lets visit the statistics. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014, and it was about the same as it was in 2004. In 2014, there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents.

This figure only gets more disheartening when you remember that only one in five cases report assaults to the police.

Now, I know you cant do much about this Nick, but is there a way you could spread your holiday spirit around a bit so that people are more kind and compassionate towards others? Maybe if people were more compassionate, they wouldn’t look at women as objects and treat them with such violence?

Nick, I know our wish list is long and complicated. I know it may be impossible to full fill these requests. But, it would mean the world if you could try. We believe in you!

Best,

The staff at Women’s Post

P.S. We promise we have been good this year!

Weinstein allegations desserve more than an apology

It’s funny how no one talks about sexism or harassment within an industry until a bigwig gets caught with his pants down. It’s funny how a woman can tell her coworkers, bosses, and friends about an uncomfortable and dangerous situation and be pushed out the door. It’s hilarious how sexual harassment and “locker room” banter has been normalized over the years.

In case you missed my sarcasm – no, it’s not funny at all. It’s sickening. When news of film producer and director Harvey Weinstein came out, I couldn’t help but think back to Jian Ghomeshi case in Toronto. The press went crazy and people expressed their disgusted, but as soon as a trial started the women making the accusations were shamed and Ghomeshi disappeared. No one got justice.

The latest allegations against Weinstein have done more than tarnish the reputation of the accused. They have opened up a larger debate about the treatment of women in Hollywood. The number of women who have now come out and made accusations of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein increases every day. And he has hardly denied it. In fact, he has fled the country to “seek treatment”’. While police have opened a formal investigation, there is not much hope these women will get their day in court.

While the world waits to find out if the Hollywood mogul will ever be charged, there are a number of debates that have circulated the press and the Internet. Women’s Post discusses three of them:

Apologies

One of the byproducts of a big scandal like this is that all sorts of actors, producers, and directors are coming out to speak on the subject. Women and men are now talking about their abusive experiences in Hollywood, which is absolutely necessary if the system is to change. However, there are a lot of apologies circulating as well–mostly men apologizing for not taking their female colleagues seriously after they confided in them.

Friday, Colin Firth came out and said he was ashamed he didn’t act on what his co-worker Sophie Dix, one of the women making allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein, told him during the filming of their movie The Hour of the Pig. He told the Guardian she never went into detail regarding the incident, but he could tell there was something wrong and all he did was sympathize. And Firth isn’t alone. Dozens of men have come forward and apologized for being party to this system of abuse.

And then there is Ben Affleck, who admitted to sexually harassing a co-worker (grabbing her ass) and then proceeded to apologize for it. There may have been a good intention somewhere in this claim, but honestly it seemed like a slight defense of Weinstein and the whole sexist Hollywood mentality. Sure, I guess it’s a good thing Affleck recognized he was in the wrong, but does it take a big Hollywood scandal for men to acknowledge their role in perpetuating the sexualization of women? Or even in harming them physically, emotionally, or psychologically? And how much do you want to bet there will be no repercussions for the men who come out now and say sorry?

Fathers of Daughters and Husbands to Wives

A lot has been written about the use of this phrase by men speaking against sexual abuse. Actor Matt Damon was quoted recently used this phrase in relation to the Weinstein allegations.“‘As the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night,” he said. And it caused a big uproar on the Internet. To be fair to Damon, he isn’t the only one to use the phrase “as a father to a daughter’” or “”as a husband” and the rest of his interview showed deep sincerity in his disgust. 

But, let’s get back to the phrase itself. “As a father of daughters”. Let me get this straight. Before, it was okay to grab a woman’s ass, but now that you have a daughter and you don’t want some guy sticking his hand (or anything else) down her pants, all of a sudden it’s not okay to sexually harass a woman. It’s like these men suddenly have skin in the game – they can’t picture their little girls being harmed like their co-workers, colleagues, and friends were.

Men often use these phrases without thinking. I’m pretty sure most don’t mean they were disrespectful before they had their offspring. But, just in case, listen up guys. Here is what you need to know about the phrase “fathers of daughters” or “as a husband.”

You should be respectful to all women, regardless of whether or not they have something to do with your penis. Teach both your sons and daughters to respect each other, and treat all of the women you meet the same way. It doesn’t matter if you are married or have children. Be a good human being and recognize when someone (of any gender) is being mistreated — and then say something.

And just stop using the damn phrase!

A broken system

There is a very real possibility that Weinstein’s abuse of women was an openly known secret in Hollywood. There are a lot of people who had to know this was happening. And yet, it took the strength of a few select women and a group of reporters at the New York Times to actually get people to listen and open their eyes. 

While these public revelations have disturbed most of us, there is a slight glimmer of hope. Women and men who have been sexually assaulted are speaking out. Regardless of whether or not Weinstein is charged, the system will have to change, if only because less people are going to accept it now. 

And it’s not just Hollywood. Social media users are starting to see that sexism exists within large corporations as well. Following Affleck’s sexual harassment revelations, actress Rose McGowan tweeted about it. Twitter then suspended her account, claiming she included a personal phone number. It has not been confirmed if that is the case. McGowan was one of the women featured in the New York Times expose on Weinstein and has alleged Weinstein rapped her.

Twitter is not getting a kind response from its users. In fact, numerous women have vowed to boycott Twitter on Oct. 13th in support of McGowan.

For most, the irony over what is considered a violation of Twitter’s terms is too much. Most compared McGowan’s use of Twitter to that of United States President Donald Trump, who has used the platform to threaten foreign countries, attack free speech, and personally bully reporters and politicians. Trump has never been suspended.

Many users have also said that Twitter violations are not enforced fairly.

What do you think? Can this system ever change? Will this scandal be enough to help spur it?

TTC to tackle safety using ‘gender-specific lens’

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) discussed safety at Monday’s board meeting, with a special focus on women.

City Council requested that the TTC “apply a full safety audit using a gender-specific lens…to address safety concerns of women and women with disabilities.” Suggestions included adequate lighting, clear sightline design for stations, more security, and more women employed in the transit process.

The board, however, chose to focus on an app that would allow a TTC rider to take a photo of a person who is harassing or assaulting someone and report it. The hope is that it will draw less attention than pushing the yellow emergency strip and stopping traffic. The app should be ready to launch by the end of the year.

As a woman who takes public transportation at least twice a day — if not more — I understand the type harassment that can take place on an enclosed streetcar or subway car. But, I’m not sure this app is the solution.

As with a lot of Toronto’s safety plans, it puts the onus on bystanders to help out. Bystanders are notorious for…well…being bystanders. There is no guarantee that someone will capture the moment on film, and if that person did take time to take a photo of the harassment, I hope they would also step up and stop it.

The idea is that the app will automatically turn off flash and sound so that those making the report won’t have to worry about drawing attention to themselves. But, with the size of cell phones nowadays, it’s almost impossible to be conspicuous when taking a photograph in a small space. And has anyone thought about the many false accusations that will have to be filtered through to find the legitimate complaints?

I also don’t think that silent reporting is enough — anyone who assaults or harasses another person should be afraid to do it again. They should be worried they won’t get away with it. They should be made to seriously consider their actions. Pushing the yellow emergency strip and forcing them to wait for the authorities is exactly what people should be doing, and encouraging them to do otherwise is just another way to say “don’t worry about it, the authorities will deal with it the situation…maybe.”

If someone is harassing a woman (or a man for that matter), someone should speak up and tell them to get lost. People should rally around victims of assault and let it be known that it’s not okay. Women should also feel comfortable telling the driver of the bus or streetcar about the incident, which means that all drivers, toll operators, and TTC workers should be trained on how to deal with harassment and assault.

It is imperative that future designs of stations, streetcars, and subways take public safety into account — better lighting, a more secure waiting area, and a bigger authority presence after sunset are all integral to the safety of women and women with disabilities. But, let’s not diminish this importance by creating silly apps that allow us to spy and report people to authorities.

Let’s focus on what really matters: making people safe and training staff do handle numerous types of emergency scenarios, including harassment and assault. If you have to make an app, I would rather an app that allows me to reload my PRESTO card on my phone – thank you very much!