Walking past the window display of a thrift shop, I was reminded that April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
There were T-shirts with “Stop the Violence,” “Still Not Asking for It,” “We Believe Survivors,” and “Take A Stand for a Violence-Free Society” emboldened on them.
But, there was one message that struck me: “I’m Your Mother, Daughter & Sister.”
This shocked me because the unmentionable reality is that many perpetrators of violence are done to women and girls by the very men who should be protecting them.
According to reported data from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 90% of adult rape victims are female.
Statistics vary, but the fact is that the vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men.
Three out of four sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor.
It gets complicated when your abuser is a member of your own family.
And, what if you tell and no one dares believe you?
I am not casting aspersions. The concealed truth is that men are encouraged through governments, schools, religions, traditions and even within families that it is OK, even commendable, for men to keep women in their place. Subjugation.
There is an unspoken rule among some men to maintain the patriarchy at all costs.
Good-hearted women want to give people the benefit of the doubt and then may find themselves in tricky situations.
Men should practice the benefit of the doubt, too. Best not to assume that something is implied if not stated.
Going to your place for a coffee is not agreeing to sex, for example.
When I was young, I wore mini-skirts.
I was not “asking for it.”
I was just following fashion.
I have not met one woman who has not been molested. Sadly, by someone they know.
(I am aware that males are victims of sexual violence as well.)
Shannon Cooley Herdman, the co-ordinator for sexual assault response and prevention at Howe Sound Women’s Centre, said that the centre’s Emergency Sexual Assault Services/Traverse Project continues to respond to the “dark truths” of society by providing “safe and confidential supports that are designed to return power and dignity to the survivor.”
“We can work collaboratively to prevent sexual violence by having difficult and honest conversations that promote a community culture of understanding and mutual respect,” she said.
According to Cooley Herdman, in 2022/2023, the Emergency Sexual Assault Services team at the Women’s Centre recorded 179 contacts from the Sea to Corridor seeking information, emotional support and referral through its 24/7 line: (604) 389-9168.
The dirty little secret is out.
Attitudes and behaviour must change.
This is the “Me Too” era, and it’s about time.
Melody Wales is a Squamish resident and veteran columnist.