Disregarding consent is a big NO

Common myths around sexual assault has many women afraid to come forward

Love and sex graphicThe allegations surrounding Jian Ghomeshi have not only sparked conversation around sexual assault and violence, but also why women often don’t report it.

“We live in a rape culture where, most often, the survivor of sexual violence is not a survivor of only one act of sexual violence,” says Mandy Bonisteel, co-ordinator for George Brown’s assaulted women and children’s counsellor advocate program.

No means no, but consent doesn’t stop at the first “yes,” it needs to be asked for every time and it doesn’t matter what type of relationship you’re in.

“Only six per cent of sexual assaults are reported to the police in Ontario, so we already know that coming forward and reporting is a very difficult issue,” said Bonisteel. “Up to 90 per cent of women who are harassed in the workplace end up leaving it, and we certainly know in Ontario some very serious situations of women who were sexually harassed in the workplace and killed by the perpetrator before the workplace could do anything.”

However, If a survivor of sexual violence or assault chooses to come forward they probably aren’t thinking about Canada’s crime statistics, says Bonisteel, “what they think about is how they will be perceived and judged, and they are judged.”

According to the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres’ factsheet Dispelling The Myths About Sexual Assault, women do not ask to be assaulted by the way they dress or behave, they don’t secretly enjoy being forced, teased or coerced into having sex, and not all women lie about being sexually harassed or assaulted.

These myths are commonly used, and are all aimed at the survivors of the assault rather than acknowledging the actions of the perpetrator.

According to Bonisteel, discussions around sexual assault vary, but more commonly result in people wondering what the survivor did to deserve it; before women choose to come forward, they’re thinking about the myths, “and how they’ll be aimed at them.”

Although there are many available community resources for women, according to Bonisteel, “if a person has experienced sexual violence, they should talk to someone,” and stresses the importance of finding someone they trust.

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Disregarding consent is a big NO