“Unfounded” Sexual Assaults

Women are such liars, eh?  From Jennifer O’Connor at This Magazine:

According to Statistics Canada, for a case to be deemed unfounded “the police investigation must establish that a sexual assault did not occur or was not attempted.” In 2002-the most recent StatsCan info available-an average of 16 per cent of sexual offences reported to police nationwide were classified this way, a rate that had remained steady since 1991. (By comparison, seven per cent of other violent crimes, such as homicide, abduction and robbery, were catalogued as unfounded in 2002.) “I think it’s a statement on women’s equality,” says Susan Havart, administrative coordinator and counsellor at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa. “Sexual assault cases are perceived differently in the courts and through the legal system. It speaks volumes that those that they don’t want to do anything about or can’t do anything about get pushed into that unfounded category.”

Cases …  are not pursued to court, nor are they reported to the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System, a national database that allows police to identify whether someone may be responsible for multiple offences. They are not included in annual statistical reports, and, in many jurisdictions, information about them is only available through Access to Information requests. StatsCan no longer requires law enforcement agencies to supply data regarding these files. Most people don’t even know the term exists. How does an investigation establish that “a sexual assault did not occur or was not attempted”? Too often, by scrutinizing who a woman is and overlooking how investigations are supposed to be done.


Lee Lakeman is a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres and has been a rape crisis counselor for more than 30 years. Having answered crisis lines across the country, she’s noticed some patterns. If a woman lives in a poorer neighbourhood, a rural area or on a reserve, if English isn’t her first language, if she’s reporting about a man with any social privilege, or if she has none, she is more likely to have her case labelled unfounded. “Our biggest problem,” says Lakeman, “is women are not taken seriously when they report and are immediately questioned as to their integrity.”

Just one more example of how women are made invisible.  By the way, the false reporting of a crime is a criminal offense.  I wonder why there aren’t more charges of public mischief against women reporting sexual assaults that are “unfounded”?  Not that it hasn’t happened, mind you …

This is a great article.  Go read

Here’s the website of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres

Towards Trangression

From Vision, Violence, and Voice: A journey from liminal to transgressive spaces by Stephanie Urso Spina:

What one does first and foremost is survive the trauma — to persist in spite of it. Then one works (perhaps for a lifetime) to process it, often in uniquely personal ways. Thus, it remains a part of one’s history, one’s self. Some after-effects of trauma will always be with me but I suspect that most of these are common, although possibly in a lesser degree, to the fortuity of having been born female. For example, I startle more than most at loud noises or sudden movements. Until a few years ago, I went to great lengths to avoid traveling alone at night, even if just a short drive to the local grocery store. I remain hyper-vigilant, but given the proclivities of the society we live in, that is more likely prudence than psychogenic pathology.

 The point is that the goal is not to transcend trauma but to endure — and not without cost. Proteanism recognizes that the pain and despair never completely disappear. It is not an effort to “fix people,” but to understand them in all of their complexity so that we may demystify the role of society and better understand the practices that construct our sense of self, other, and “reality,” and thereby fix our inappropriate social structures instead. In order to do this, we must challenge the legitimacy of the hegemonic order. We must create “becoming spaces” (Derrida, 1981, p. 27) where we can think, speak, and act in ways that both mark and transgress imposed limits; where we can disrupt the dominant discourse and so reconstruct it. Sexual abuse is not an isolated phenomenon or private event. It is woven into our social fabric. It is a public issue. It is our anger and our outrage, not our silence, that will hold society accountable and provoke change.

Read the whole article here at Radical Psychology

Feminist Analysis of Sexual Violence

Taken from Mariangela Di Domenico, La violence faite aux femmes: à travers les agressions à caractère sexuel, (Quebec City: Conseil du statut de la femme, 1995)

This paper will discuss some of the theoretical foundations of various feminists’ analysis on male violence against women. These feminists were the first to analyze sexual violence against women from a socio-political perspective. They alerted the public to a problem which, prior to their work, had received scant attention. What little information there had been, was presented through the lens of psycho-biological determinism. Due to the theoretical nature and complexity of the analysis found in the feminist literature, we have had to limit ourselves to the key events. Also, we have chosen to focus on certain authors we judged to be particularly significant. Because feminism is a practice as well as a theory, it is clear that a study of the writing on its own will provide only a glimpse of the scope and richness of the analysis developed by this movement.

This paper is divided into sections that group authors representing the major currents of feminist analysis of male violence. During the 70s, for example, writers accorded a predominant role to socio-political structures; since the 80s, a more global vision has emerged, in which sexuality, the construction of heterosexuality and the social control of women constitute the main elements.

Read excerpts from the paper here

OH NOOoo, Helen!

Actress Helen Mirren:

“I’m more careful when I’m being interviewed by a woman because, from experience as well as reading articles about other women, I know there is a little stiletto knife hidden behind the back.”

She continued: “In a rape case, the courts – in defence of a man – would select as many women as they could for the jury, because women go against women.

“Whether in a deep-seated animalistic way, going back billions of years, or from a sense of tribal jealousy or just antagonism, I don’t know, but other women on a rape case would say she was asking for it. The only reason I can think of is that they’re sexually jealous.”

Mirren said date rape was a “tricky area” and something men and women had to work out between themselves.

It grieves me to say it, but Mirren has a serious case of internalised misogyny.

via Fuck Politeness

VAW Across Cultures

From the Canberra Times:

A new report suggests one in five ACT teenagers has witnessed an act of domestic violence against their mother or stepmother.

The report, which looks at the issue of family violence and the perceptions of young people, shows Canberra teenagers are among the 500,000 young people around the country to witness violence at home.

The An Assault on our Future report will be issued by the White Ribbon Foundation today .

It shows nearly a third of teenage boys nationally believe that violence against women is “not a big deal” with a similar number believing “most physical violence occurs because a partner provoked it”.

Report co-author and researcher Michael Flood said the findings echoed the experience of many people working in the field.

He said the attitudes of some young men were being negatively influenced by parents, peers, the media and pornography and the study the results showed a need for more targeted campaigns against family violence.

“It is remarkable that a substantial minority of young males thinks violence against women is OK in some circumstances when she’s led you on or she’s flirting,” he said.

The report showed a large number of girls had experienced sexual assault or attempted rape, and nearly a third of Year 10 girls reported having experienced unwanted sex.

“I was surprised just how common it is for girls and young women in particular for girls or young women to be pressured or forced into sex,” Dr Flood said.

What kind of a researcher is Dr. Michael Flood that he hasn’t heard how common it is “for girls or young women to be pressured or forced into sex”?  WTF?!  And “unwanted sex”?  Hmmmmmm.

And from The Daily Star (Bangladesh):

The UNFPA report on the state of the world population this year finds that the concept of gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, often does not resonate within the Bangladeshi society and is not readily identified, even among many victims themselves.

The report also mentioned that those who do recognise themselves as survivors of violence often remain silent because of the dishonor associated with this taboo.

This must be due to the fact that 80% of Bangladesh’s population is Muslim.  They just have no respect for women in Islamic countries. 


Everyone on alert.  Amnesty International says there’s about to be a humanitarian crisis in Congo:

As the civilian death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to rise, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and more than forty other organizations active in Africa warned today that the situation in the eastern DRC is at risk of turning into a humanitarian catastrophe, and called on the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session on the crisis without delay.  [here]

Oh what the hell.  5.8 million people have been killed in the DRC over the course of its wars; hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, gang-raped, turned into sex slaves, impregnanted, infected with HIV and mutilated.  That’s not already a humanitarian catastrophe?  WTF?!

Jane Doe & Thousands of Women

In May, I responded to the disbanding of the community and women based Toronto Police Services Board Steering Committee on Sexual Assault that was formed as a result of Jane Doe’s successful suit against the Metropolitan Toronto Police.  In that case, it was found that the Toronto Police had been negligent in their handling of her rape, and had also breached her Charter right to equality before the law.

Last week at The Star, Michele Henry insulted both Doe and women’s communities who have struggled and worked against the odds for decades to challenge, assist and support the police to make or begin to make the systemic changes necessary to ensure that rape and sexual assault cases are properly pursued in an article purporting to assess the “gains” made in the ten years since the case was decided and since the re-structuring of a new “Advisory Committee” that excludes community members. 

The article isolated Doe, called her “bitter”, left out the work of individual women and women’s community groups in her struggle and bought into the official police view that “everything has changed and things are all better now”.  [You can read the article here].  Doe mobilized women to write to The Star and set them straight.  This week, The Star has some of their letters:

The woman known as Jane Doe has lectured at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law every year since the early ’90s. Her thoughtful, insightful analyses of the policing of sexual assault and the role of the law, health care, the media and other of our institutions in perpetuating sexual assault mythology has informed generations of our students. The hall is always packed. Just last week it was standing room only during her presentation. Her research, her book and of course her case are part of the curriculum in universities across the country.
It is difficult to reconcile her hopeful energy and dedication to teaching the next generation with the Star‘s categorization of her as “bitter” or “dogged” and its failure to represent her as a woman who has worked in collaboration with others in Toronto and across the province to effect change in police investigation of sexual assault.

In March 2009 our faculty will host an international conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Jane Doe decision and to reflect on the current response to sexual assault. Many of the 60-plus proposals we have received share her position that little has changed in the policing of that crime.

In fact, a 2007 Department of Justice study demonstrates the persistence of a shockingly high rate of unfounding for sexual assault by police. And Toronto’s own Auditor General in 2004 documented ongoing failure by police to follow their own protocols regarding sexual assault investigation.

Rather than isolating Jane and her work, it is in the interest of your readers that you represent the systemic nature of the crime of sexual assault and the many other scholars, front line and community workers who work with Jane Doe or support her.

Elizabeth Sheehy, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

You need only read the report of the Auditor General of Toronto, the judge’s decision in Jane Doe’s case, or the brilliant book that Jane wrote to understand the real story of Jane Doe.

 If you had taken the time to actually engage with Jane Doe’s story and the significant social analysis embedded in what she is doing, perhaps then you would not have run such a simplistic report. It is clear that you chose instead to support the posturing of a police force that was found guilty of negligence and discrimination in their investigation of sexual assault.

If we must decide, as the article suggests, “Who is right – the police or Jane Doe?” I’m with Jane, as are many people who have woken up from a false sense of security and who don’t trust a police force that deliberately squashes the possibility for real change.

Institutional affiliation as a quality of the new advisory committee is not community driven and has often been proven to augment divisions between what actually happens to women and the institutions that they must adhere to. Democracy, we must remember, depends on the courage and challenges of citizen-subjects (not institutions). I think you have forgotten this.

Maria Belen Ordonez, Department of Social Anthropology, York University

One need only look at statistics to understand that the rate of sexual assault continues to rise and women continue to not report, citing fear of the police investigation as the main reason. An article about the work of the Steering Committee would have been much more useful than a police promo piece.

 Anna Bourque, Toronto

Your article is framed by the question “Who is right – the police or Jane Doe?” Given this simplistic approach, I’m not at all surprised the article failed to deal with what the Jane Doe case represents: the political struggle of many diverse women against systemic violence. The Star audience deserves a story that represents the perspectives of these women and their work to address how interlocking systemic violences such as racism and sexism and classism are reproduced by the state.

 Let’s have a little political analysis when dealing with issues of political violence.

Jamie Magnusson, Associate Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Thousands of cheers to Jane Doe, Elizabeth Sheehy, Marie Belen Ordonez, Anna Bourque and Jamie Magnusson and all other women who wrote letters that didn’t get published.  To all the women participating in the international conference at Ottawa U. in March, 2009 to celebrate the Ten Year Anniversary of the decision in Jane Doe’s case.  To community and women’s advocacy groups such as the Toronto YWCA, METRAC, Parkdale Community Legal Aid Services Programme who worked so hard on the Steering Committee.  To Beverly Bains, who helped to design the Committee.  And to women everywhere, who struggle with such persistence and courage  and beauty to make the world a better place for women – and men.  I am so proud of you – of us.

Her Blog

I really love and admire Anglachel’s Journal and recommend it to everyone.  Here’s part of her post on the experience of Riverbend who, until a year ago, blogged at Baghdad Burning:

For me, everything that Movement Conservatism has done wrong can be read in Riverbend’s blog. Her careful chronicle of how the normalcy of everyday life melted away is the story of the corrosive effect Bush and his backers have had on the world directly for eight years and in varying levels of intensity since Reagan.

Anyone who praises Reagan and the movement he led is praising what has happened to Riverbend, her family, her friends, her country. There is no wall between the domestic and foreign policy of these people. The collapse of Wall Street and the burning of Baghdad are of a piece, joined by a Darwinian world view that there are hunters and prey, the strong and the weak, the winners who are deserving and the losers who deserve nothing. The prisons of California, an industry the Republicans proudly comapre to Pat Brown’s university system, are the siblings of Abu Ghraib. The drowning of New Orleans is the mirror of Baghdad in flames. Devastation to the innocent by-standers who could not flee in time, a gold mine for the contractors who arrived like vultures to strip the carcasses to the bone.

Read more about Riverbend and the rest of this post here

The comments on this post, wherein Anglachel challenges men to take responsibility for rape are worth a read as well, but be prepared for ignorance and agression from most of the males.