A opinion piece from the Women's Place in Annapolis Royal
The Women’s Place Resource Centre in Annapolis Royal sees many women of all ages coming through our doors seeking support after they have been traumatized by sexual assault. The assault may have happened within 24 hours or 24 years; the women still carry the trauma with them and this trauma has elements of shame and guilt even though they did nothing to justify being assaulted.
So it was with great disappointment that we read about the St. Mary’s University chant and some of the resulting public and editorial blame aimed at women who dress ‘inappropriately’. Our culture relentlessly exploits women’s sexuality, pressuring women – and particularly young women - to dress and act a certain way and then blames us when we are assaulted, become pregnant, need an abortion or suffer from depression. When a woman suffers from any of these traumas, people are quick to point the finger of blame to the survivor instead of at the real perpetrator, our culture that permits and encourages this behavior.
Many people, when pointing the finger of blame at women, say they must take responsibility for their behavior and the way they dress. We feel all people must take responsibility and face the consequences of their behavior and feel that, as communities, as families, as individuals we are responsible for our collective and personal behaviors and for the protection of those who are too young and too weak to protect themselves. Shaming and blaming them does not help those whom have been victimized and are struggling to survive.
Our culture is so awash in sexism and rape culture that it is insidious and not always recognizable. The SMU Pro Rape chant was used for “generations” and was done “in the heat of the moment’ according to the SMU Student President Jared Perry. “The heat of the moment” is often a justification used for rape as well. Mr. Perry stepped down as President shortly after his inexcusable justification of the chant that encouraged raping underage girls.
The word Rape itself is now being watered down and hidden behind neutral words such as “Non Consensual Sex” in the media. Rape is Rape and Sexual Assault is Sexual Assault and it is incredibly traumatizing to victims of these actions no matter how bland we make the words sound.
“No means No” is not just a catchy slogan. It is the law. “I don’t know” means No; “Maybe” means No; “I’m not ready” means No. Only Yes means Yes. And we are fortunate in that our Canadian legal system agrees with us in this issue of consent. Because Yes means Yes and NO means NO; however we dress; wherever we go.
By The Staff of The Women’s Place. The Women’s Place is located at 228 St. George Street, Annapolis Royal. Its mandate covers from the village of Weymouth to the town of Windsor. They are: Della Longmire, executive director; Brenda Thompson, community developer/peer support worker; and Isa Bishop, administrative coordinator.