Tag Archives: Sexual Assault

Does the Reaction to the Stanford Rapist Signal a Cultural Shift?

By now you’ve probably heard that Stanford student Brock Allen Turner was sentenced to only 6 months in prison for raping an unconscious woman at a party. You’ve probably also heard his father shamelessly attempt to downplay Turner’s actions as “20 minutes of action”.

Hopefully, you’ve also read the letter written by the rape survivor. In it, she breaks down many of the myths around rape, myths Turner’s defence used to attack her testimony and represent Turner as some kind of victim instead. Her heartbreaking personal account has broken down the defences of almost everyone who has read it (except Turner and his father, it would seem). According to Buzzfeed, one of the main sites to release her letter, her words have “gone viral” in a way few conversations about sexual assault ever do.

And as the word has spread, almost everyone has gotten behind this brave woman. Her story has brought light to the problem of systemic injustices, like light penalties for many cases of sexual assault and disproportionate penalties based on racial or economic background.

More than anything her story has prompted a united public outrage. Every comment I have read expresses distain and anger towards Turner and sympathy for his victim. Even internet trolls who would normally find a reason to challenge the victim’s story (i.e. some members of the Men’s Rights Reddit page) admit that “outrage over this issue is legitimate” (although their comments inevitably lead back to criticizing feminism).

In some ways it’s encouraging to witness the attack on Brock Turner. It seems like we’re experiencing a massive shift in the way we talk about rape and sexual violence. As this story has unfolded we’ve seen few if any attempts to slut shame or victim blame in the media or public conversation.

As glad as I am that this conversation has come out in favour of the victim, I can’t help but wonder if the public condemnation of Turner actually signals for a yearning for justice, or if perhaps other factors are at play. I’ve been struggling with two questions in particular. Continue reading

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Hollywood’s Cover-Ups or Indonesia’s Castration Method: How Should We Deal With Pedophiles?

The sexual assault of a child is the most abhorrent crime in the world. As a society we curse those who commit such crimes and refuse to recognize them as anything but outsiders and deviants. Unfortunately, pedophilia is far more common than we care to admit.

Former child actors Elijah Wood and Corey Feldman recently drew attention to the problem of pedophilia in Hollywood. While Wood only pointed to events he had heard about (and last year’s documentary film, An Open Secret), Feldman referred to his own experience with abuse

Unfortunately for Feldman, even if he would like to call out the men who abused him as a child he is unable to do so for legal reasons:

I would love to name names. I’d love to be the first to do it. But unfortunately California conveniently enough has a statute of limitations that prevents that from happening. Because if I were to go and mention anybody’s name I would be the one that would be in legal problems and I’m the one that would be sued.

In a stark juxtaposition to Hollywood, Indonesia is also in the news for their dealings with pedophiles. After a 14-year-old girl was brutally gang raped and then murdered, President Joko Widodo introduced a new law that would mean the death penalty or chemical castration for the sexual assault of a minor.

After reading about the injustice of Hollywood, where survivors are unable to prosecute the predators who took advantage of them, reading about Indonesia can feel like a breath of fresh air. However, it’s worth looking beyond our gut reaction to ask if forced chemical castration, and the possibility of the death penalty, will actually work as a deterrent against the sexual assault of a minor. Continue reading

If Protecting Women Against Sexual Assault was the Point, Bathroom Preference Wouldn’t Be Our Main Focus

The bathroom use of transgender people has been a topic that’s hard to avoid, especially on social media. Here in Canada, the following video began to circulate after Alberta’s 61 school boards decided to “revise regulations and hash out new policies by March 31 to protect the rights of LGBTQ students and teachers, support gay-straight alliances and create a safe learning environment.”

And in the U.S., the American Family Association recently began a boycott of Target after the organization stated that transgender visitors should be allowed to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in. Meanwhile, several States have attempted to pass bills that would force “transgender people to use restrooms that don’t match the gender they live every day”.

Along with the debate, a variety of memes have popped up on both sides of the conversation. While it irritates me to see the particularly popular Chuck Norris-themed meme belittle transgender experiences, I thought trans activists were easily holding their own in the meme department by reminding readers of how difficult it can be to spot a transgender person, and therefore how ridiculous it is to police who enters which bathroom.

Unfortunately, there have already been several cases of bathroom policing, where women who aren’t deemed feminine enough are challenged for entering their bathroom (as might be expected, the video below includes some strong language).

Continue reading

The One with Ghomeshi, Trauma, and the Truth

As of this morning, Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted of all charges.

The judge (Horkins) in this ruling told the witnesses that navigating this proceeding is “really quite simple”.

All he asks is that they “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The truth.

What happens when the truth isn’t that simple?

 When trauma is involved, the truth— the reality of an experience, the story—is not clean cut. With trauma, the truth is never so simple.


A little psychoeducation, if you’ll bear with me:

Trauma memories do not have clear beginnings, middles, and ends.

This is not widely understood, and it needs to be.

When we experience trauma, our bodies and brains undergo an involuntary instinctual response that interrupts normal neuropsychological functioning.

Put simply, our brains often can’t physiologically encode traumatic memories in a linear or coherent fashion.

Our memories of trauma end up being without narrative organization and may be stored in a nonverbal realm of the brain.

Which makes it inherently problematic in cases like this where the outcome relies on the witnesses’ ability to recount the assault or trauma.

The judge is asking for something that our brains cannot physiologically accomplish under the weight of trauma.  Continue reading

#FreeKesha Matters, Even When Other Women Are Being Threatened With Acid Attacks and Stoning

I struggle with the priorities on my Facebook feed.

Like many other millennials, I get a lot of my news from scrolling through Facebook. I try to follow as many different news sources as I can, hoping to hear information from a variety of perspectives. I’ve never deleted anyone simply because they have a different opinion, since I need to be reminded that my opinion is far from the only one.

That said, I live in a nation of privilege. From my home in Canada, I am more often than not bombarded by “First World Problems” that seem to pale in comparison to news from other some nations that splash across my screen, albeit much less often.

ke24ha_today_show_2012

By Becky Sullivan, CC BY 2.0

This week, the news bombarding my Facebook feed has been reports of Kesha’s case against Dr. Luke. According to Rolling Stone, “last week, a New York judge denied Kesha a court injunction that would have allowed her to record new music outside of her record label Sony Music and working with producer Dr. Luke.”

While this story initially seems like a simple case of an artist being forced to honour her contract, it is complicated by Kesha’s accusation that Dr. Luke sexually assaulted her early on in their professional relationship. Continue reading

2015’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

RachelBrown

After the recent acts of Daesh terrorism in Paris I returned to this interview with PhD Candidate Rachel Brown to get some perspective. While Brown’s work was focused on food and religious identity in French and Quebecois Muslim immigrant communities, it also highlights how isolation and religious persecution can push young people towards accepting religious extremism. In the interview, Brown explains,

“I’m not really an expert in ISIS or Jihadist fighters or any of the topics that relate to this. I can say that when people, especially youth, feel alienated, when they don’t feel at home anywhere, this can lead to finding identity in extreme forms of religion. If the religious identity is the only identity that one feels they can claim, he/she is going to place a huge amount of importance on that identity.”

nestle

This year, a petition began circulating that condemned Nestlé’s operations here in British Columbia. While Nestlé has been operating here in B.C. for 15 years, residents became particularly concerned during the drought this past summer.  As Gordon has pointed out in his previous Shame Day post, Nestlé doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to respecting other countries and their water needs. In this post we take a closer look at the relationship between Canadian water and the American corporations that would like to bottle it up. Continue reading

2014’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

jianghomeshibannerThe Jian Ghomeshi scandal was a big deal for most Canadians. Ghomeshi felt like someone we all knew, someone who had been a regular presence in our homes (and cars) as long as he had hosting Q on the CBC.

In October, the CBC put pressure on Jian Ghomeshi to go on a leave of absence. Shortly afterwards, he wrote a post on Facebook accusing the CBC of firing him over his preference for rough (but consensual sex). Many fans believed Ghomeshi when he claimed the women who had accused him were liars who just wanted attention.

Given his popularity, I understood why people jumped to defend him when the first few allegations of sexual violence came out, but there was something about his Facebook post that just felt wrong. It seemed unlikely that anyone, much less more than one person, would make a sexual assault accusation just for attention. As I started to do my own research on the topic, I quickly realized that false rape reports are so rare that they are almost non-existent, and that the tendency to believe Ghomeshi over his (at the time) anonymous victims spoke to a much bigger systemic issue.

injusticesystembannerIt’s really hard to care about how terrible our justice system is unless someone close to you has gone through it. In this post, I discuss some of the things I noticed when I visited someone close to me during his stay in jail. Despite firmly believing that this person deserved to go to jail, that experience opened my eyes to the way prison (and the bureaucracies surrounding it) take damaged people and make them ever worse. As someone who works in special education, it made me even more angry to realize just how many of the adults in prison are individuals with special needs.

problemwithpuritybannerThe conversation around the purity movement tends to be very divisive; feminist websites like Jezebel have called it creepy, while many Christian communities staunchly defend the practice. Since I consider myself both a Christian and a feminist, I wrote this post to point out the really great intentions that are (usually) behind the purity movement, while still drawing attention to the damage it can cause.

duckdynastybannerAfter the Duck Dynasty star spoke out against homosexuality and was kicked off his show, my Facebook wall started to fill up with “I support Phil” memes. This made me really, really angry.

Having grown up Evangelical, I understand how many Christians feel they cannot accept homosexuality as something that honours God. Personally, I no longer accept that dogma, but I can understand it. I didn’t even write this post to argue with that branch of theology. I wrote this post because I was furious that Christians are happy to defend a millionaire because he broke his contract and got kicked off his TV show, but are unwilling to acknowledge that homosexuals are being killed and actually persecuted all around the world.

voluntouristbannerI’ve written many posts that address the Christian community. I do this because I still consider myself a member of that community, and I want to call out the issues that I believe are distracting from the message of love we claim to be sharing. Despite my many critiques of the church, some of the most amazing people I’ve known are Christians. I wrote this post about my experience living in a missionary community in Niger, where I was surrounded by people who I truly respect.

This post also addresses “voluntourism”, since my own selfish motivation to move overseas was something I felt personally convicted about during my stay in Africa. Recently, however, the discussion of the voluntourism trend has made westerners afraid to express interest in foreign aide at all. I believe both extremes can be damaging to international relationships.


Looking back, it’s sometimes scary to think about how much I have shared with you guys. It’s always a vulnerable step to publicize our personal opinions, it’s even more so with details about our personal lives. Intimidating as it can be, I’ve loved how many amazing discussions the blog has opened up in my life. Your comments (in person and online) have helped me reevaluate my own biases, and challenged me to think more deeply about the social, religious, and political issues we love to debate here at Culture War Reporters.

So here’s to a fantastic year. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.

– Kat