It is that time of year again, when snow is starting to fall and stay on the ground and the community waits in anticipation for more time to spend with our friends and family. People are looking forward to enjoying great food, decorating, and attending the traditional slew of holiday parties.
With all of the holiday festivities, this is also a prominent time of year for women to receive constant reminders not to drink too much, to dress “appropriately,” and to watch their drinks. This is my reminder to all of you, that it is not a woman’s responsibility to prevent sexual assault and sexual violence by following a list of arbitrary precautions. It is the responsibility of men, and others in positions of control and power, to be decent human beings and prevent themselves from committing sexual violence on their peers.
Rape culture teaches girls from a young age that sexual violence against women is inevitable, if they are “good” and take care of themselves, they won’t be the one to experience it. We need to be teaching our boys that women and girls are people who are deserving of respect and safety in every situation. Not just because they love their mothers or their daughters or their sisters, but because no human deserves to be violated. For those of you who know and believe this, and still promote the idea that women and girls need to take steps to protect themselves because “society just isn’t there yet,” I want you to consider the 2017 Statistics Canada report stating higher rates of sexual assault for those who took precautions for their safety, and that over half of sexual assaults were perpetrated by someone known to the victim/survivor.
Sexual violence does not happen because the victim/survivor was negligent. Sexual violence is committed to exert power and control, or because someone is ignorant as to how to recognize consent. Neither of these is an excuse to be a perpetrator and take away someone’s sense of safety and security.
So this holiday season, let’s take the responsibility of not getting assaulted off of the victims/survivors. Educate yourselves on consent and sexual violence to ensure that you can recognize if someone else is feeling unsafe and respond appropriately. Make it known that you stand with survivors. Encourage others to do the same.
For individuals and workplaces looking for information on consent and sexual violence, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 902-755-4647.
Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre