Thursday, August 18, 2016

Up To Me

I've mentioned my email friend before.  Someone I met while I was at work.  He is and has always been a perfect gentleman in all of our communications.  He doesn't flirt or make any insinuations beyond friendship.  I'm traveling to Toronto next week and we've agreed to meet for coffee.  He asked what area of Toronto I'm staying in, in answer to me asking him to find a place with good mochaccinos (I have a serious mochaccino habit dating back to my first one when I was 12 at the Erin Mills Mall) that we could meet at.  I typed the name of the hotel and the address because I really didn't know what area of Toronto that would be considered.  Then this creepy sensation crawled up my back and the voices of many women I have known over the years said to me: "Is it safe for you to tell him where you are staying? How well do you know this guy? He could wait outside of your hotel, harass you, try to kidnap you... rape you." I can see them shaking their heads at me as if they are so disappointed that I would even consider giving out that information to someone I hardly know. It reminds me a bit of the boyfriend who told me not to get raped when I was going to go out for a late night stroll.

Well you know what? Fuck that. Here's some real statistics.

I'm not going to list them all but the general idea is this:

Most sexual assaults are committed by someone close to the victim.

I should have told my boyfriend, that statistically speaking, I was more likely to be raped lying next to him than on the late night walk I was planning...

This idea that it is mainly strangers that sexually assault women is incredibly damaging and endangers all of us.  The more we speak up about sexual assault and abuse within families and romantic relationships the easier it will be for victims to step forward and get help. As long as we point the finger at shadows in the dark the reality of sexual violence will not come to light.

I tried to explain this to a friend of mine and she immediately mentioned a rape on our local hiking trail.  Yes, rape by strangers happens. Yes, that rape got a lot of media time.  But really, incestuous assault happens every fucking day in our town.  People get coerced  by their romantic partners and though they feel horrible after giving in when their requests for their partner to stop are ignored, they don't realize that this was assault, because rape only happens to women who walk alone at night.

I get why we believe this as a community.  It gives us a false sense of control to believe these things.  It makes us feel that our friends, family members and partners won't be assaulted -if they just follow the safety rules.  But statistics say otherwise and burying our heads in the media-induced, culturally-accepted sand of ignorance is putting our love ones at risk and discouraging women and girls from coming forward.

It also gives the idea to young people that sexual assault is stalking a woman then forcibly taking her. Whereas the idea that they could be sexually assaulting their girlfriend/boyfriend by touching them in a way they had said "No." to but seemed "into" an hour later does not cross their mind.  All forms of
sexual assault need to be addressed by our community based on frequency of incident. No matter how
uncomfortable it makes us.  Our silence around the most common types of sexual assault is the
perfect set up for perpetrators to continue without consequence.  This needs to stop.

So, yes I walk alone at night. Yes, I will let my friend know which hotel I'm staying at. It's not up to me to police my (what should be normal) behaviour (walking at night by myself) to appease my friend's and family's fears.  I'm going to be straight-up with you all.  You may mean well, but you are perpetuating a false (and harmful) idea around sexual assault and abuse.  Instead let your loved ones know that if they ever feel that their physical/sexual boundaries are not being respected by ANYONE, that you are there to listen and offer support in whatever way they need it.

Let's face it:

Statistically speaking:  I'm less likely to be sexually assaulted walking home by myself  than letting a male I know very well walk with me.

That is truly scary.