If Rape is Part of the Culture, Change the Culture

by | February 24, 2013
filed under Can-Con, Feminism

by Jody Dallaire. Originally posted at jodydallaire.ca, re-posted with permission.

Can you name the 3 Canadian cities with the highest reported sexual assault rates?

Most of us would guess large cities or certain municipalities with reputations for toughness, a large transient population. Places in B.C. or out West maybe, or Ontario. Maybe Halifax is among them, we think.

Well, we come to find out, the 3 Canadian cities with highest sexual assault rates include two in New Brunswick.

Fredericton & Saint John ranked second and third among Canadian municipalities, for the highest number of sexual assault incidents reported to police in 2011.

Using Statistics Canada data about police reports of sexual assaults, Maclean’s magazine established rates per population among communities with a population of 10,000 or more in Canada. Maclean’s only published the “top” 15 cities, and no other New Brunswick municipality made it in the group.  The magazine called their list, “Where Canadian criminals go to play – A look at the cities with the most lawbreakers”. Ugh.

The highest rate of reported sexual assaults per capita was in Belleville, Ontario, with almost 137 sexual assaults per 100,000 population.

Fredericton and Saint John, respectively had rates of almost 130 and 115 incidents per 100,000. Halifax was 12th, with 87 reported sexual assaults per 100,000 population.

New Brunswick’s showing on that list is shocking, mostly because it seems that our province is not aware of the extent of the problem nor doing much to prevent the crime.

It is also shocking because we know that, here as elsewhere, most victims of reported sexual assaults are children.  In 2009, in 61 per cent of cases, the sexual assault victim was a child in New Brunswick – a child younger than 12 in 21 per cent of cases. That’s about 350 children in New Brunswick in 2009 who were victims of a sexual assault reported to police.

In 83 per cent of cases, the victim was female. In 100 per cent of cases, the perpetrator was a male.

And let’s not go thinking these are assaults by the boogeyman that lurks in the alleyway. Only 18 per cent of the reported sexual assaults in the province were committed by a stranger.  Acquaintances and family members account for almost three-quarters of them, and dating partners or spouses for the rest.

Some will try to spin Fredericton’s and Saint John’s ratings as possibly good news, because, the excuse goes, victims there feel more comfortable about reporting the crime to the police. There is good reason NOT to believe this. Our programs are not as well funded nor as strong as in many other provinces and municipalities. Also our charge rate, especially in Saint John, is very low. And anyways, our sexual assault report rates have been high for decades, especially in Saint John.

New Brunswick has had a higher rate of police-reported sexual assaults than the Canadian average most of the last 25 years.  In 2010, we had 78 sexual assaults per 100,000 population. The Canadian rate was 65 per 100,000.

Note that all those statistics are just for “sexual assaults” and don’t include other sexual crimes, such as sexual interference with a child, invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation, and the actual charge of incest.  The statistics for these other crimes are similar.

I hope that New Brunswick will finally confront this situation by launching prevention campaigns – real ones aimed at the potential assaulters.  Like those campaigns in the last few years in some Canadian municipalities, “Don’t be that guy”, stating that having sex with someone who doesn’t consent, or who is too drunk or too young or too disabled to consent, is rape.  “It’s not sex when she doesn’t want it. Sex without voluntary consent is sexual assault.”

If you look at sexual assault rates around the world, let alone across Canada, you realize that the rates are different in different cultures. If we change the culture that makes those assaults possible, and we’ll reduce the rates of assault.

Here’s a list of some real prevention tips, suggested by feminist law professors, government campaigns, and internet blogs. You can put them on the wall.

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