If The Light’s On, The Dark Goes Away

by Rachel Gertz

I live in a city of a million people. You might live in a bigger city. Or a smaller one.

Imagine in that city, right now, 1 out of 3 of the women you know and 1 out of the 6 men you know were sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime. 

Calgary Sexual Abuse & Assault Statistics

Now accept the fact that it’s true. In Calgary, right now: almost half of our citizens have experienced some type of sexual violence before their 18th birthday.

Shocking, isn’t it?

80% of the time, it's your friends or family abusing your children.

Recently, Travis and I completed a site called CCASA Your World. It’s a site for youth (aged 18-25) in Calgary, but I believe everyone will get something out of it. It’s aimed at opening up conversations around this taboo subject. 

Humbled

I consider myself an open minded, compassionate individual and thought I pretty much knew all there was to know about the topic of sexual assault and abuse. I mean, I minored in psychology! But I sure didn’t talk about it.

So I was embarrassed when I went to CCASA’s old site and started reading through the myths and victim blaming section. How come I didn’t know this stuff? Worse: how come I still had to work hard to change my perceptions after reading them and why was it so tough to talk about?

This is hard, but I am humbly admitting to you right now I had a lot to learn.

It’s Not What You Think

Promiscuity

  • Prostitutes can be sexually assaulted, as can what we term, ‘sluts’. The number of partners a person has does not determine someone’s value and required protection from sexual violence. No one has the right to you hurt you or have sex with you against your will. No matter what you choose to do with your body each day. That is your right.
  • Being promiscuous is often judged as a negative thing (especially through the lens of religion). We’ve actually devised a term for this judgement of women specifically: slut-bashing. Of course, it’s a one way street. Men who choose to sleep with multiple partners are not judged for their behaviour in the same way. Why is that okay? No one should be beaten up, set on fire, burned with acid, stabbed, or be called names for choosing to sleep with several people. We are not barbarians.
  • A person’s choice of clothing has no impact on whether on a person will be raped or not. In many hyper conservative countries, women wearing full veils with no exposed skin are subjected to brutal rapes. Then they are sentenced to death for being promiscuous, often at the hands of their own fathers who know their daughters are not to blame, but cannot accept the shame of the rape. Un-effing-believable.

Casual Sex

  • Chances are many of your friends have been drunk and ended up having sex and not feeling entirely comfortable with it. That’s still rape, folks. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not consenting.
  • A person can change his/her mind about consenting to sex at any point before or during sex. Even if he or she is married or in a long term relationship.
  • Men, though less likely to experience assault, are vulnerable to sexual abuse, especially as young boys. Most abuse is silenced because the victim can’t talk about it or even understand and explain what happened.

Purpetrators

  • Most sexual assaults are carried out by friends or family. 80% of the time! It’s not the classic walking in a dark alley scene you think it is.
  • Rape and abuse have nothing to do with sex. Wait, what? 
    I’ll say it again. Rape and sexual abuse have nothing to do with sex and everything to do with exerting power and control over another person. So “I couldn’t control myself” or “she lead me on” simply doesn’t fly. This is why rape is used as a psychological weapon to wear down an ‘enemy’ in genocidal wars and in ethnic cleansing. Breed out the culture you don’t like, and traumatize the people to the point where they can’t function normally. It happened in our First Nations reservations and continues to happen in our own communities.

Rape Culture

  • The craziest thing that hit me was this: We think we have to live in a world where sexual violence is tolerated. But we don’t. This issue is about attitudes and perceptions. We live in a society that normalizes rape. We don’t like that it exists, but we accept it. Why?
Violence Pyramid

By talking about the issue and challenging stereotypes and myths like the ones above, we can start changing attitudes. And when we start changing attitudes about sexuality, gender roles, acceptance of sexual orientation, and instead part putting the blame on the perpetrators who have learned that their behaviour is acceptable, we change our world. 

It has never been so important to me to share a message before. I know I rant about a lot of things. I care about a LOT of things. And I know sometimes being ranty has the opposite effect and makes people defensive and unwilling to have a conversation. I don’t want that.

My hope is that by admitting to you that I had so much to learn about something I thought I understood, and by showing you that my perceptions have changed just by looking at a website, you’ll see that this taboo topic of sexual abuse and assault is actually something we can talk about. In fact, when we switch on the light, there is nowhere left for darkness to hide. Your friends, your family members —maybe even you yourself, might have been touched by sexual violence. 

And I’m just saying, right now, “That’s not okay”. Sexual violence doesn’t belong in our world.

I will always be here, ready to talk about it. I hope you will, too.

More information: http://ccasayourworld.com/contact/

Back to top.