No Such Thing As A ‘Phony Rape Scare’

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Nicole Pietsch is the Coordinator of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres.

Margaret Wente (Can she consent to sex after drinking?, March 1, 2014) begins and ends her column with the assertion that the real problem concerning sexual violence is a “phony rape scare” that has been “manufacture[d]”.

On the contrary, sexual violence is real, and a too-common reality for women and girls everywhere. Timely instances include local cases such as Doodnaught and Sgt. D. Mellor here in Ontario; campus-situated sexual assaults involving strangers and known-offenders (see Sheridan College, York University, University of Waterloo) also abound in the last year.  Resources such as sexual violence prevention guides for Ontario’s colleges and universities, and funded projects addressing gender-based violence on campus were rolled out in recent years to support campuses in preventing incidences of violence and better supporting victims.

These initiatives originated in response to identified need.  To deny this is to be willfully ignorant.

Today, a public that used to resist or refute the existence of sexual violence in Canada is instead positively effecting change.  We have made great strides in identifying and acknowledging the impacts of sexual violence.  In response, sexual violence has been realized as a “real” issue in the lives of students; survivors have offered concrete recommendations for improved practices; and campuses, students and educators are effectively engaged in this work.  The actions at Saint Mary’s are just one example of this.

Sexual violence is a social phenomenon thrives in secrecy and silence.  Important conversations about consent, the prevalence of sexual violence, and opportunities to hear survivors’ narratives (see Dreise and Brooks in the Doodnaught case) shed light on the realities of sexual violence —and the contexts that continue to silence victims.

Those who simply rehearse old myths about sexual assault have been unable to change with the times.  Wente’s dire warning that “drunken sex” is being policed by “a triumph of ideology” shows that Wente, too, has been left behind.  It’s not ideology – it’s the law: any sexual contact without consent is sexual assault.

— Nicole Pietsch, Coordinator – Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres

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