Although the myth that women make false reports about sexual assault continues to be perpetuated, the reality is quite the reverse.
According to Statistics Canada, only six per cent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.
Statistics Canada has found that one-half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence.
Most (69 per cent) acts of sexual assault are perpetrated by someone known to the women (such as on a date or by a neighbour).
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association (2001), the harm done to women who experience physical and sexual abuse by dating partners is extreme.
A few items from their list of consequences are: a 3.4 times greater lifetime likelihood of cocaine use; a 3.3 times greater incidence of having more than three sex partners within 90 days; and an 8.6 times higher incidence of attempted suicide within one year.
Women don’t report assault but their bodies and spirits have recorded the consequences.
Women silently bear immense suffering and Canada bears the enormous cost of men’s violence against women.
Imagine what our response might be if half of Canadian women were assaulted in terrorist attacks Ã‰ or seriously harmed by a virus.
We would have a massive outcry and response.
Think of the H1N1 response and then multiply the money spent, the studies done, the professionals deployed, the actions taken, the media coverage, etc. What keeps us from mobilizing that same force to protect women from the Canadian men who are routinely terrorizing them?
What will it take to have the commitment of the justice system, the engagement of the RCMP and the collective determination of society effectively ensuring that women’s rights to safety are being met? When will we stand together and demand the assaults on women cease?
In a recent survey, 60 per cent of Canadian college-aged males indicated that they would commit sexual assault if the were certain that they would not get caught.
Are underreporting, lack of RCMP support when assaults are reported and an unresponsive court system giving these men the assurance that they can assault women with impunity?
Rather than acting to make women safe, are we choosing inaction and keeping the perpetrators of sexual assault safe instead?
Whose safety do we want to ensure?
We can choose to protect women.
When will we finally make that choice?
Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre