sexual assault

Stop Groping Me

Left handby Matilda Branson

Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual harassment and assault

Groping. Definition: When used in a sexual context, groping is touching or fondling another person in a sexual way using the hands; it generally has a negative connotation, and is considered molestation in most societies.

I’m really sick of being groped. I started to think about times I’ve been the target of a groper, frotteur (someone who masturbates by rubbing against another person, often in a crowd) or flasher, or experienced sexual harassment in public places. I was both shocked and enraged at how many seemingly small incidents have occurred throughout my lifetime.

The supervising barman who whipped me on the ass with a tea towel when I bent over to pick up a tray of glasses, or insisted unnecessarily on squeezing past me in tight spaces of the bar when as I carried boxes of beer – something he would never do with male colleagues. The elderly priest at a funeral who repetitively squeezed my bottom as I passed around a bowl of chips at the wake. The boss in his fifties who made constant sexual innuendo and tried to kiss me on a work trip.

Backpacking: on an overnight ferry in the Greek Islands, where a man walked up to my friend and I, staring at us intently and grinning manically – with his hand moving furiously near his fly, as he watched us and masturbated publicly – and to see that man walk off the ferry the next morning with a family in tow. The Costa Rican bus conductor who cornered me – the last passenger – in my seat on the second story of a double decker bus and refused to let me off unless I kissed him.

Working overseas: using my handbag as a barrier between myself and a man on a tightly packed train carriage in Southeast Asia, and arriving at work with a handbag covered in semen. The group of teen boys I walked past on an evening walk, where one boy pushed another so he “fell” into my breasts, and as I walked away, called out, “I wanna f#%k you baby.” The man who gropes my ass as I’m out shopping with my boyfriend for a soup ladle and spices at a local market in Kathmandu. The taxi driver who insists on “taking a short cut” at 8.30pm at night, then stops in an alley, cuts the engine and lights, then says, “Give me all your money, or I’m going to hurt you.” The man in the alley who flashes his penis at my housemates and I as we leave our house.

And what have I done in response to these situations? I’ve pretended it didn’t happen. I’ve frozen and not moved until the moment passed. I’ve convinced myself it was an accident and ignored the cold twist of gut instinct telling me otherwise. I’ve laughed it off and turned it into a funny anecdote to recount at a later date to friends, or I haven’t told anyone. Read more

Posted on by Matilda Branson in Feminism Leave a comment

My Reality: I Was Blamed for My Assault

Finger pointing at cameraby Leanore Gough

Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault, victim-blaming

When I was 16 I worked part-time at a drug store. There I met the man who became my most aggressive assailant: a man in his mid-to-late thirties with very white teeth and just a little grey hair. He came in and made small talk a few times always seeming very friendly. After a few weeks of compliments and big smiles he asked if I wanted to see him on my day off. I agreed. We went out a total of three times. Each time he became more aggressive. On the final time I saw him, we went for drinks.

“I know a place,” he said.

It was a pub down the street from his house. We sat in the back where there weren’t a lot of people. He bought me several drinks, he felt for me under the table with his hands, and eventually he came and sat right beside me. He slid his hand down my back and into the back of my pants. I wanted to go home, I did not feel well, I was uncomfortable.

He tried to be calm, said he’d take me back to his place and I could lay down. When I didn’t want to, he became upset, told me he was disappointed and that he thought I would be a lot more fun. I felt awful and eventually I went with him. By luck I didn’t go up to his apartment. We ran into one of his neighbours outside, and when they stopped to talk I backed away and ran for the train station. I puked in the garbage at the station. He never came back to my work.

As a teenager I was sexually assaulted by a total of six different men. At a concert, at a bar, twice on public transit, at a friend’s house after a movie.

Most of my assailants were between the ages of 30-40 years old. All clean-smelling, safe-looking and smiling.

Even though I remember the incidents and the men so vividly, I have never really described any of them to the people I confide in. No one ever asked. I have been asked: “Are you sure you didn’t want it?” I have been asked: “Are you sure it happened like that?” I have been asked: “Where were your parents?” I have been told I gave consent when I got in his car.

Anyone I ever told knew my home life wasn’t great and then made a judgement based on my class and statistics of kids who come from broken homes, and personal assumptions of what girls like me are like. They didn’t realize or care that all of that was irrelevant. My parents could have been happily married, sober and involved; I still would have gone to concerts, movies, and rode on public transit. I still would have had a part-time job.

No one ever asked: “Why would a grown man think it’s ok to stick his hand down the back of a teenager’s pants?” No one ever asked: “Why did an adult man think it was ok to feed a teenager drinks and assault her?”

The answer, I think, to those questions is very simple. While society knows and largely accepts that the behaviours displayed by my assailant as not ok, no one is really enforcing that idea. According to RAINN, 54% of sexual assaults are never reported. Many that do come forward are faced with the same questions I was faced with.

Instead of being upset or sympathetic towards my situation, the people closest to me were suspicious and even hostile. If keeping girls and women safe is a priority, family and friends need to stop blaming the victims and start looking at the assailants. The pressure needs to be on them. As a society we need to realize that it is not possible to protect women and children from sexual assault unless men are held accountable for assaulting them.

(photo by Pablo Pecora, CC-licensed via Flickr)

Posted on by Leanore Gough in My Reality 1 Comment

My Reality: My Rapist Was a Feminist

by Lola Davidson

Trigger Warning: Rape, Mental Abuse

When I first met my rapist, I was 18 years old, I was independent, I believed in equality, I hated the idea of men paying for my dates with them, yet I didn’t consider myself a feminist at the time. I had never been taught about feminism in school or growing up. I knew very little about feminism except that a girl in my school who constantly harassed and physically assaulted me was a feminist, so when I met the man who would come to be my rapist and he asked me whether I was a feminist, I said: “Oh, God no, I am so not a feminist.”

“Why not? Feminism is amazing, it helps so many people,” he responded. I felt embarrassed then, and later on I did my research on the topic, took classes on Women’s Studies and realized that feminism was in fact amazing. Feminism helped me deal with my eating disorders, with past abuse. It helped me understand life so much better. I felt so much admiration for this man because in a world full of misogyny, here was a man who actually took the time to be on our side. What an amazing guy, I thought.

He was constantly praised for being a feminist, especially by me. He started grooming me to act a certain way so that his sexist remarks would fly under the radar. He acted from an unconscious belief that feminism wasn’t supposed to protect all women, just the ones that he felt were worthy of it, and I did not fit into that group.

I always felt the need to laugh off any microagressions he made towards me because if I didn’t, he would point out how flawed I was for getting my feelings hurt. He would praise women who were successful and belittle women who had any chink in their armor.

He was a feminist but girls who went after modelling were stupid, he was a feminist but when I wore a dress and stockings I was asking for it. He was a feminist but my bisexuality meant I owed him a threesome with another girl. He was a feminist but when he was aroused and I was asleep my consent was unnecessary. He was a feminist but calling me a dumb slut and penetrating me while I shook and cried was “not a big deal”. He was a feminist but he mentally abused me for two years because of my gender and how inferior he believed it was to his.

My rapist doesn’t know he raped me because he thinks the label “feminist” protects him from being a bad person – Hell, if someone told him what he did to me was rape, he wouldn’t believe them because I did not physically push him away. To him, my fear was a flaw in my character, not his. However, it doesn’t matter what he believes because your labels do not excuse you from being a monster.

Posted on by Lola Davidson in Feminism, My Reality 1 Comment

Global Lessons from the UN Study on Violence Against Women in Asia

Cover of UN Report "Why do some men use violence against women and how can we prevent it?"by Jarrah Hodge

A new study on violence against women in Southeast Asian countries, by UN Joint Programme Partners for Prevention, is making headlines around the world.

Although the study also has interesting findings on non-sexual, physical violence against women, the findings that seem to have shocked most people were the high numbers of men admitting to rape.

Just under a quarter of men interviewed in the study countries (Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka) admitted to raping a woman or girl. It’s important to note the percentage varied widely between countries, from a low but still troubling 11% in Bangladesh to over 60% in Papua New Guinea. More than half the men said they committed their first assault between the ages of 15 and 19 and nearly half had raped repeatedly.

It’s safe to assume one of the reasons men were so open to admitting assault was that the questions never used the word “rape”. Instead, researchers asked if men had ever: “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex,” or “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it.”

About 10 per cent said they have had “non-consensual sex” with a woman who was not their partner, but another 14 per cent admitted it when partners were included in the question.

Less than one quarter served jail time.

So here’s how not to respond to this, white Westerners (with examples from news site comments):

-      ” the study was only done in some of the most backward places on Earth. So it says absolutely nothing about the male of the species.”

-       “and yet we keep letting them come to America on H1B work visas, where the later prey on children.”

-      “Typical Asians, bout time the media reports on these deviants.”

-      ” Dont compare the West to Asia. Ever wondered why all the Asians (Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Pakkis, Koreans etc) are trying to immigrate desperately to the West & not vice-versa ?”

First of all, you can’t make those kind of blanket statements about the region from this (and not just because it’s super racist). The study doesn’t cover all of Southeast Asia, stats varied between countries, and only in Cambodia does the report claim there was balanced geographic representation in the sample.

Second, though there are different issues between and within various countries, there are some common themes that we see happening here. And that means we can’t get on our high, white horse. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment

Rape Chants at UBC

Photo of clock tower and Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBCby Lucia Lorenzi. This article was originally posted at the author’s blog, The Body Politic. Cross-posted with permission.

Just two days ago, I published an article  (which was also republished on detailing my concerns about having heard misogynist lyrics being played loudly on campus during frosh week at UBC. The song, which was played at a booth run by an off-campus nightclub, right near the Student Union Building, described—repetitively—being here “for the bitches and the drinks.” I expressed my frustration at having to be exposed to such misogyny in this environment, especially when we know that sexual assaults (especially those facilitated by drugs and alcohol) and sexual harassment run rampant on so many post-secondary campuses.

Shortly after I posted my article on my blog, national news services began sharing coverage of an egregious frosh-week incident at Saint Mary’s University, which involved 80 student orientation volunteers leading a chant that promoted underage sex and rape. Every major newspaper and television station in Canada has carried the story, featuring interviews with SMU students, SMU frosh leaders, the SMU president, women’s centre and sexual assault centre staff, and concerned community members. While there have been a predictable number of individuals who have dismissed the incident as a mere moment of “juvenile ignorance,” or, as former SMU student union president Jared Perry put it, something that just happened “in the heat of the moment,” many have been quick to condemn the behaviour. SMU president Colin Dodds, in an interview with CTV Atlantic, expressed his shock at the situation, even apologizing to the family of Rehtaeh Parsons (the Halifax teenager who took her own life after being sexually assaulted and viciously taunted) for the likely impact it would have on them.

Despite my anger at the situation in Halifax, I also felt somewhat relieved. While my article about hearing misogynist music was referenced in a GlobalBC article about SMU and rape culture on campuses, what happened at SMU wasn’t happening on my campus. I mean, if the worst thing that happened at my campus at frosh week was an off-campus nightclub blasting a song about “bitches and drinks”, rather than student representatives of a university actively cheering about underage sex and sexual assault, then it couldn’t possibly get worse, right? Right?


Late this evening (September 6), my university’s student newspaper, The Ubyssey, published an article revealing that the exact same thing had happened during Sauder FROSH, the “long-running three-day orientation organized by the Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS)” (Rosenfeld, Ubyssey). Not only was I appalled to know that the same chant apparently had a long history of being used at frosh events here at UBC, but even more appalled to hear the reactions of the FROSH co-chair and other students. Co-chair Jacqueline Chen reported to The Ubyssey that previous complaints had been articulated about the chant, but that its use during frosh week had not been prohibited. Rather, Chen says, “We let the groups know: if it happens during the group, it has to stay in the group” (Rosenfeld). Read more

Posted on by Lucia Lorenzi in Can-Con, Feminism 4 Comments

On What it Means to be a Woman in this Culture

Woman Restroom symbolby Josey Ross

In my teenage years it was a common bonding experience to get together with girlfriends to compare the ways we had been harassed and even assaulted by strange men. We would laugh at tales of men twice our age following us on multiple trains in a foreign country, of men grabbing our vulvas in clubs, of male “friends” “jokingly” grabbing our tits*.

And I remember saying, time and again, “well, that’s just part of being female in this culture.” Not with anger, not with sadness, not even with resignation. Simply a statement of fact. The sky is blue. To be woman is to be routinely harassed and assaulted.

Told, as a teenager, the statistic that one in three women experience sexualized violence I scoffed: “Well, sure. I mean, if you’re going to count being groped or harassed, then yeah. But come on!” I, future anti-violence worker, champion of consent, dismissed the statistic because it was so normalized to me that the reality of being woman involves being groped and harassed. This violence was so routine it simply didn’t register on the scale for me.

And now, when I have these conversations with others, when I present the statistic that one in three women experience sexualized violence I hear, “Well, sure, but it depends how you’re counting it. I mean, if you count groping and harassment…”

Think about how tragic that statement is. We have agreed culturally that women must bear a certain amount of harassment and assault before it’s actually counted as violence. And the casual, daily violence we women face on the streets, in the clubs, on the bus, that is not part of that 1 in 3 statistic.

But my feeling is that if we were to truly count harassment and groping as sexualized violence we would find 99.95% of women have experienced sexualized violence.

*A small survey of experiences I had had by the time I turned 18.

(photo in public domain via Wikipedia Project)

Posted on by Josey Ross in Feminism, Pop Culture 8 Comments

Dating Safety: There Really Is An App For That

First formed in 1870 and part of the World Young Women’s Christian Association, the Canadian YWCA’s mission statement is to advance gender equity through research, advocacy and sustainable member associations. They focus on ending violence against women and girls, securing universal childcare, and achieving economic security for women.

The YWCA is a goldmine of resources for  women; they offer transitional housing, childcare, shelters for women and children escaping domestic violence, fitness programs and health programs. They partner with outside associations to assist women in securing employment and offer over 90 different programs for young girls. The YWCA also runs the Youth Eco Internship program, placing unemployed youth from diverse backgrounds into paid internship positions within non-profit organizations that focus on environment, community and women’s services.

One of the organization’s key focuses is on safety for women, and with their progressive vision, they created an Iphone app to specifically address women’s physical safety. Funded by the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program and created for the Power of Being a Girl anti-violence initiative, the YWCA offers a free app for your phone available for download from iTunes.

The YWCA Safety Siren is an app that, with the touch of a button, silently sends ends emergency email to pre-set contacts with your GPS coordinates and also places an emergency outgoing call to a pre-programmed number. Functioning in both French and English, the Safety Siren includes a library of women’s health resources, lists of ‘red flag’ warnings that might indicate whether the person you are dating is abusive, information on stalking, and some disturbing dating facts, such as: “Over 50% of Canadian women experience an incident of violence at some time in their lives, most before they turn 25.” The app also includes links to 250 resource and crisis centres, YWCA’s across the country, emergency hotlines, and sexual health clinics.

While it’s unfortunate that there is a need for an app like the Safety Siren, it’s a convenient, preventative tool for all women.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 8 Comments