A new report was released Tuesday by Statistics Canada that showed the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014 was about the same as it was in 2004 — a disturbing fact, but not very surprising.
Considering the trauma of a police questioning and court hearings, in addition to the circus of high-profile sexual assault cases in the media, it’s not a shock to see that women still feel uncomfortable reporting an attack. These women are often judged for what they were wearing and what they were drinking. More often than not, it is assumed the woman “wanted it” or “led them on”. Not to mention 1 in 5 cases are determined baseless by the police.
Why would anyone go through all of that willingly?
According to Statistics Canada, in 2014 there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents, which is similar to statistics collected in 2004. Just when you think society is starting to evolve, it goes backwards.
“Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes,” the report reads. “Research has attributed this to a wide range of reasons, including the shame, guilt and stigma of sexual victimization, the normalization of inappropriate or unwanted sexual behaviour, and the perception that sexual violence does not warrant reporting.”
Of these sexual assaults, 87 per cent were committed against women.
This report is proof that Canada still has a long way to go towards supporting women after they have reported a claim of sexual assault. The majority of these women are between the ages of 15 and 24, meaning they were students. While many Canadian campuses have changed (or are in the midst of changing) their sexual assault policies, it isn’t happening fast enough.
And then there are the moments in which a sexual assault case is actually taken in front of a judge who doesn’t understand the difference between consent and an unconscious woman. Women are constantly being forced to explain and define the term “consent” — something that is probably dissuading a lot of women from actually reporting these horrific assaults.
The Canadian government has made changes to laws and encouraged college campuses to update their policies, but obviously there hasn’t been enough done to reduce the stigma of sexual violence or support victims of assault. My only hope is that somebody, anybody, steps up to help change the stigma of sexual assault. Police, government, and university agencies need to step up and take an active role in altering not just policies, but also cultural norms surrounding crimes of a sexual nature.
In another decade, let’s hope Canada doesn’t see a report similar to this one.
Note about survey: About 33, 127 people across 10 provinces responded to the General Social Survey for which this report was based.