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The realities of sexual assault

By in Opinions

HEATHER KEVILL

Rallies, like this one, strive to end rape culture world-wide.
Rallies, like this one, strive to end rape culture world-wide.

The Don’t Be that Guy campaign conveys an extremely important and timely message in our society — a society that frequently places the onus of sexual assault on its victims.

This month the Saskatoon Police Services, the University of Saskatchewan, the Sask Liquor and Gaming Association, Crime Stoppers and the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre will launch this controversial campaign.

Since its inception in 2010 by Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton, Don’t Be That Guy has sparked heated debates nation-wide. There have been various arguments made against the campaign. As the USSU Women’s Centre Coordinator, I would like to illuminate the realities of sexual assault in our society.

The campaign, which addresses men’s roles in sexual assault, has been criticized and disparaged for unfairly targeting men as having sole responsibility in sex-based crimes. Some argue that women are just as likely to commit the same kind of sexual crimes against men or other women, claiming that therefore the slogan should read “Don’t Be That Person.”

Some groups — namely men’s rights activists — believe women are just as responsible for incidents of sexual assault that occur between men and women. They claim that women, as victims of assault, either bring it on themselves or that they falsely cry rape after a one-night stand they later regretted. And some argue that it is unfair to target all men in these posters, because in reality all men aren’t rapists.

Arguments such as these effectively demonstrate an inescapable fact: we live in a patriarchal society.

In our society misogyny, sexism and gendered oppression are very clear social realities. Rape culture is so prevalent that two Canadian universities’ frosh week chants have been known for promoting and making light of under-aged nonconsensual sex — that would be rape, people.

We live in a world where victim blaming is normal — a society that publishes comments about the 11-year-old victim’s ‘provocative’ outfit and ‘mature’ demeanor in a news story about her gang rape involving 18 men.

We live in a society where statistically the majority of sexual assault offenders are men. Our society has normalized rape culture, victim blaming, sexism and gender oppression so much that average Canadian men — men who would never commit such heinous acts, men who are not sexist or misogynistic — still manage to find these posters personally offensive and insulting.

This is the society we live in and it is unbelievably heart-wrenching.

Please do not make arguments that are completely irrelevant to the point of this important campaign. The Don’t Be That Guy campaign aims to increase awareness about the realities of sexual assault. These realities include the fact that, in reported cases of sexual assault, 97 per cent of sex offenders are men according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Canada in 2007. 86 per cent of survivors of sexual assault are women according to Stats Canada in 2000.

And yes, sexual assault and rape occurs at the hands of women against men, women, gender-queer individuals and intersexed individuals. Although such occurrences are under-reported and less visible to the public, they are still serious crimes and merit attention and punishment.

SAVE’s campaign, however, chooses to focus on male offenders and to address that group directly with their posters — a group that statistically commits the most sexual assaults in Canada.

When you see these posters in and around campus, take a moment to reflect on your own experiences. The Don’t Be That Guy campaign is valid and relevant on campus and in our larger community, and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out why.

For more information on the University of Saskatchewan and the USSU’s upcoming Sexual Assault Awareness Week, visit usask.ca/consent. The USSU Women’s Centre provides peer support, information and resources about sexual assault. Student Counseling on campus can provide emergency counseling services to students in crisis.


Photo: CMCarterSS/Flickr

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