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Jane Doe will be giving a lecture at Concordia University in two weeks’ time on the structural obstacles posed at levels of society that “prevent meaningful discourse and resolution regarding the crime of sexual assault”. She should know–she spent eleven years suing the Toronto Metropolitan Police Force for negligence regarding a case of a serial rapist.

In 1986, Jane Doe was assaulted by a serial rapist, and went on to become the first woman in her situation to secure her own legal representation in the case, making her privy to court proceedings that raped women who testified were never present for. After the rapist was convicted, she went on to sue Toronto Police for negligence and gender discrimination, and after eleven years, won the case. She wrote a book about the experience entitled The Story of Jane Doe: A Book about Rape. 

On March 14th, Ms. Doe will be talking about “the use and efficacy of police warnings, the sexual assault evidence kit, the trial process and other responses which contribute to gender and race inequality, rape mythology and an abysmally low conviction rate nationally.”

The current inquiry into the police investigations of the case of Robert Pickton hauntingly echoes Doe’s story, reminding us that little has changed.

Event details
Wednesday, March 14 at 5:30 p.m.
Room H-110, Henry F. Hall Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.)
Sir George Williams Campus, Concordia University
Admission is free

There will be a book signing after the lecture.

More details about the lecture.
More details about the book.

In an article in the Guardian, journalist Will Storr reports about the invisibility of men as victims of rape in war-torn African countries. He talks to survivors in Uganda, whose experiences are not only horrific, but are endured in silence and fear of being discovered.

Storr explains that rape is often used as a brutal weapon of war, but not exclusively against women as is commonly thought. Men run great risks if they admit that they have been raped: police may think they are homosexual–a crime in most African countries–and arrest them. Wives and family may leave and shun them, thinking they have lost their ability to be men. And if they do approach organizations for help, they are often rejected by NGOs and UN initiatives, whose mandates are focused on women only.

Underlying much of these issues in dealing with the rape of men has to do with the ideas of gender and the nature of this kind of violence. The article states that gender roles in African societies tend to be rigid and traditional in their concepts of masculinity, and a man who has been raped does not fit those concepts. However, the organizations that serve war-stricken areas perpetuate the invisibility of this violence against men by failing to acknowledge that it happens when they do encounter it. These groups function according to the the idea that women are the only victims, and that men are only perpetrators of rape.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Storr’s photographs from his trip to Uganda can be found here.

The New York Times has just published an article reporting on some key findings of a nation-wide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. The representative sample surveyed consisted of 16,507 adult respondents.

The study’s findings report that sexual assault is drastically more prevalent that previously thought. Whereas the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reported last year that about 270,000 Americans had experienced sexual violence, the CDC’s findings suggest that 1.3 million women were raped in the past year alone. The study found that between 1 and 2 percent of men have been raped, often when they were under the age of 11. It found that nearly one in five women, almost 20 percent of the population, have experienced sexual assault.

Some other statistics from the report:

  • 28 percent of male victims of rape were first assaulted when they were 10 years old or younger
  • 12 percent of female rape victims were assaulted when they were 10 or younger; almost half of female victims were raped before they turned 18; about 80 percent of rape victims were raped before age 25
  • about 35 percent of women who had been raped as minors were also raped as adults
  • more than half of female rape victims had been raped by an intimate partner, and 40 percent had been raped by an acquaintance; more than half of men who had been raped said the assailant was an acquaintance

The article points to some of the mental and physical health problems correlated with having suffered sexual assault, such as increased chances of having post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes.

The article also links to a page of detailed and professionally reviewed information on rape published by the New York Times.

This study, conducted by a respected and widely recognized public health agency, is invaluable in establishing the prevalence of sexual assault in the United States, and by extension, our society. Numbers such as these indicate that the problem is much more pervasive, and thus even more pressing concern to be addressed. In a world where information informs action, such studies take the first step and lead the way for more work to be done.

Picking up from the last post on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s public service announcement, here is an article that deals with the kinds of sexual abuse that do not fit the heteronormative stereotype.

The Globe and Mail reports that former pro ice hockey player Sheldon Kennedy will be testifying at a congressional hearing following the Penn State University scandal, where former football assistant coach Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing several young boys. Kennedy was sexually assaulted by his coach Graham James when Kennedy was a minor.

The fact that the sexual assault of underage male athletes is in the media is an important step in opening up the discourse about who suffers sexual abuse. While rape of women by men may be common, it is critical that it be understood that it is not the only kind of sexual assault, and that all people who have been sexually abused should be acknowledged.

As a young athlete, Kennedy did not know who to reach out to, as he was afraid his teammates might think he was gay and that his mother would not allow him to continue playing hockey if he told her what was happening to him. With cases like Penn State receiving heavy coverage, the sexual abuse of male children is emerging as a topic more accessible to the public, thus creating a heightened awareness of sexual abuse of children in vulnerable situations. Hopefully, more such awareness will translate into more openness to discussing child sexual abuse, as well as vigilance where it is needed to protect children from abuse.

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