Reactions and responsibility
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
(The following story discusses sexual assault in detail. If that sort of thing particularly upsets you, you should probably stop reading right now.)
“Grab her by the pussy!” The words that define 2016.
As far too many victims will tell you, sexual assault is a very real and horrible thing in our society. This should go without saying, but it is amazing how many people ignore and defend these actions. The president-elect bragged about committing sexual assault, although he denied committing these actions (it was simply “locker room talk”). He also brought to attention allegations of Bill Clinton committing sexual assault, and his wife defending him. Trump’s defence was misguided and ridiculous, although bringing attention to Bill Clinton’s actions is important.
Sadly, the Trump reveal was only one of many high-profile sexual assault cases to occur this year. Brock Turner only got three months in jail for raping a fellow student. Bill Cosby was publicly discredited after over 50 women revealed he had drugged and assaulted them. Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty for assault after conflicting victim statements, most likely due to the trauma of the incident clouding memory. UBC creative writing chair Steven Galloway was fired after serious sexual misconduct allegations, including—you guessed it—assault!
Despite the alarmingly serious problem of sexual assault in our society, it is rare that the topic is actually discussed in a meaningful way. You’d think that holding people accountable for their behaviour would be a no-brainer, yet rape culture, victim-blaming, and denial or acceptance of this sort of thing remains pretty much the norm. For every Brock Turner case, there are many other rapists who receive the same sentence, or are never charged in the first place. For every Donald Trump who grabs them by the pussy, there are many other powerful men who are known by their victims to be someone who abuses women.
It is impossible to turn any of these high-profile events into something positive, but it did create a discussion that badly needed to be had. As any victim can tell you, far, far too many cases are ignored and hushed up. One rapist is three too many, but the true amount of rapists in society is insanely high. It’s difficult to measure, as so many of these cases go unreported. If one wonders why someone wouldn’t report the incident, the fallout from any of these cases more than answers the question. Trump threatened to sue his accusers. The media questioned these victim’s reputations and presumed inciting of the assault. A Canadian Federal Court Justice asked a victim during a rape trial why “she couldn’t keep her knees together,” and suggested that “pain and sex sometimes go together.”
I can hope, and even believe, that these high-profile incidents will continue to further the discussion. Society has a very long way to go in dealing with rape culture and holding others accountable, but we are making baby steps. There are still too many judges unsympathetic to victims and misguided societal viewpoints, but we’re finally collectively stepping up and saying “You know what, these things are wrong.”
2016 was pretty awful, but maybe it helped in some way to create a better future.