It’s been a rough couple of weeks for anyone trying to insist that rape culture and normalized violence against women don’t exist in Canada. Despite their best efforts at deflection and minimization, that darn reality just keeps creeping in. How many blatant examples of rape culture can we treat as unfortunate exceptions before we admit that maybe they’re the problematic rule? How many more violent gender-based crimes in a long string of gender-based crimes must we see making front-page news before we start connecting the dots?

If you think my statement is hyperbolic, because we here in Canada treat sexual assault and violence against women with the severity that they deserve, you might be part of the problem. I’m going to point you to a couple of stories from last week that made headlines and made my skin crawl.

Calgary rapist uses victim’s own phone to document her rape

The first story took place in Calgary, where in 2016 a then-18-year-old Drayton Dwayne Preston broke into a 17-year-old teenager’s bedroom, sexually assaulted her multiple times, and felt so comfortable and at ease with his decision to assault that he decided to stick around and take pictures and videos of her using her own phone. And while I’m incapable of crossing the U.S.-Canadian border without looking guilty for a million imaginary crimes, this man was so nonchalant about the whole thing, he somehow had the cool-as-a-cucumber ability to send those vile images to his own Facebook account and subsequently delete them from the victim’s phone. Like it never happened.

Lots of people who feel uncomfortable with the sheer volume of rape cases clogging up our legal system (and the ones, I assure you, that will never come to light because rape victims don’t trust it to provide them with the justice that they seek) like to argue the blurred lines of sexual assault (who was drinking, what were they doing, was consent implied, what’s the hidden agenda of accusers, etc.), but cases like this one bring home the message loud and clear. Rape is a conscious decision. Not an impulse, not a minor transgression, not a bad choice, or even a “fundamental lack of respect” as Judge Gord Wong put it during the sentencing. As if he were referring to someone failing to give up a seat for a senior citizen when they enter the metro car, and not someone repeatedly raping an unconscious person and then filming it for bragging rights. That’s not simply disrespectful. That’s deeply entitled, sociopathic behaviour, devoid of empathy.

Preston will only serve a 26-month sentence because a joint plea deal was reached. Even when it’s an open-and-shut case of rape, the punishment never even remotely fits the crime. One can certainly question a legal system that allows for such lenient sentences to be permissible in the face of such an egregious act, but I think it’s unwise to pretend that our legal system is not – to a certain extent - a reflection and representation of our values as a society.

Even those who like to ponder the “blurred lines” of rape, would have to admit that there is something deeply troublesome about a man who has – so far – not publicly expressed any remorse or concern for the victim (he did feel sorry for himself, according to a pre-sentence psychiatric evaluation) being out in a measly two years. Yes, he will be on a sexual offender registry for the next 20 years, but he will be free to live his life, while that girl will have to deal with the emotional scars of that assault for the rest of hers.

A Montreal fundraiser for a man convicted of sexual assault

Let’s head over to Montreal now, where a bar is in hot water because its management wanted to throw a fundraising party for a former employee of theirs. Steve Bouchard, a former bouncer at TRH-Bar (pronounced Trash Bar - and really living up to its name in this particular instance) was given an 18-month jail sentence in March 2017 after being convicted of three counts of sexual assault and three other counts of armed assault. His victim, Martine Beaudet-Aune, was dating him when the assaults happened in 2014 and 2015.

According to the Journal de Montreal who broke the story, the event was called “Free Steve” and was to help with his reintegration back into society. While the owners defend their decision, stating that their former employee has paid his debt to society, Beaudet-Aune said she feels like they’re laughing in her face and showing deep disrespect for sexual assault victims everywhere. She also said that her assailant has never expressed remorse.

Facing major criticism, the owners removed the Facebook event and then reinstated it, promising to donate double the proceeds of the party to an organization providing support to sexual assault victims. But the damage was done and, once again, the impression that rape is a minor and debatable transgression remains.

While everyone certainly deserves a second chance, to organize an event that you’ve flippantly named “Free Steve”, as if Steve – like a trapped orca in an amusement park – is behind bars accidentally and undeservedly, is indeed not only insulting to his victim, but just one more way that rape is diminished and minimized in society as a lesser crime.

Ajax triple murder

In Ajax, Ontario, this past Wednesday, 39-year-old Krassimira Pejcinovski was slaughtered along with her two teenage children, Roy Pejcinovski, 15, and his 13-year-old sister, Venallia, by her 29-year-old boyfriend, Cory Fenn, because she was trying to break up with him. Police have confirmed all three were stabbed to death. Another child, a 16-year-old daughter, wasn’t in the home at the time and was physically unharmed. Emotionally, there is no question, that she (and her father, also the father of her dead siblings) have been destroyed.

"Just another unfortunate and deeply tragic domestic violence case," I hear you saying. "Sure, they occasionally happen, but it’s not like violence against women is an epidemic."

Are you so sure about that?

Paying attention to the facts helps connect the dots. We’re barely three months into 2018 and the province of Ontario has already documented 16 murders of women and their family members by partners or former partners since January 18. That’s a lot of innocent victims by toxic men who continue to treat women as possessions and property and their attempts to leave a relationship as an attack on their manhood and reputation. Men certainly break up with women too, but it's so much rarer for a woman to kill a man for leaving a relationship. Toxic masculinity is, of course, at play here, but, despite women being the overwhelming majority of sexual assault and domestic violence victims, the term is deemed offensive by those who seem to think it targets all men, instead of just the men who victimize others.

In the meantime, we amble along, halfway between outright denial and grudging disbelief. Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Women continue to be the majority of victims (87 per cent) of sexual assaults, and four out of ten victims choose not to go to the police because they don't trust the criminal justice system. Rape is the only violent crime whose rates haven't shown a decline in the country, despite the frequency of other crimes doing so.

We profess to being shocked, alarmed, and saddened by these horrific examples of femicide, misogyny, and travesties of justice, but we continue to be in denial. We are unable (or unwilling) to connect the dots about how minor, ordinary sexism and disrespect beget major violence. Connecting the dots means acknowledging that we live in a world where mainstream culture mistreats women and views them as inferior. Connecting the dots means acknowledging that we live in a world where some people think nothing of making rape jokes or holding fundraisers for convicted rapists. Where justice for raping someone is a slap on the wrist, and where a response by some men to the rupture of a relationship is pure proprietary rage. It's certainly understandable how and why women are so often seen as someone's property when the debate about reproductive rights and the free agency to make their own decisions about their own bodies still rages on in courts around the world.

Connecting the dots requires us to understand that the road from "innocuous" rape jokes and demeaning representations of women in the media, to victim-blaming survivors of rape in court, to beating a woman or killing her, isn't as long or far-fetched as you might think. The people who police us, sit on juries, and vote in our laws also live in and soak up the same culture that sends home the message that victims of violence are too often not to be believed. They are not exempt from or immune to the same messages that permeate our world.

Without proper education to change public norms and attitudes, without a justice system and a police force better trained to respond to victims of rape and domestic violence and better legislation to treat it with the severity that it merits, and without a society that allows men to seek help for their problems instead of lashing out at their partners and the world, we are doomed to continue to repeat the same cycle of violence.

We have a festering problem and the common denominators remain the same; women comprise most of the victims and men (while still often victims themselves) comprise most of the perpetrators. Rape culture is an ugly, unbecoming fact and it’s something too many of us simply don’t want to see.

Keep reading

Ms Drimonis, in a relatively brief essay has summed up most of the major arguments supporting the notion of `rape culture``. Millions of words have been used world wide to both defend and deride this notion - and as long as it can be described as a notion - perhaps imaginary - it will continue to fester.

There are, however, some scientific studies available that support this reputedly `fabulist`notion.

Homo Sapiens, through the process of evolution displays a marked disparity in the size and strength of the sexes. Some argue that the greater male advantage in physique is a function of the man`s role as the hunter. But if you drill down more deeply, you can infer that the male `hunter` is not just hunting food, but the survival advantage of dispersing his genes as widely as possible with as many offspring carrying females as are available.

On top of this is the evidence of the pack mentality - of the alpha male who monopolizes the females of the herd, and further evidence that females gravitate toward the males most likely to produce the healthiest, most survivable offspring.

These survival strategies have morphed, in our human imaginations and social mores, into the most egregious and aberrant forms of social organization - ranging from the total subjugation of females to any male member of the tribe, to, on the other hand, the grievous resentment of the ìncels`` of the tribe. These primitive and vestigal social overlays on the `survival`strategy are the underlying imperatives that drive the so-called `rape culture``. It is not a notion - it is a fact. And, in the current state of the world is about as dysfunctional as could be imagined.

Humanity no longer has the excuse of survival to justify sexual predation and violence - if it ever did. Humans are now a plague upon the land and the sooner we can curb the ìrrational exuberance`` for the act of sexual conquest the better off the Earth will be.

We can start by teaching all males from the cradle onward that the be-all and end-all of their lives does not depend on the ejaculatory performance of their penis. We can then enforce this idea with legitimate and scaleable punishments or preventions levied against transgressing males who perpetrate violence in the prosecutions of their hormonal urges. Those punishments and preventions could include treatments to reduce the irrational sexual urges; male contraceptives made mandatory for careless impregnators; and the same kinds of legal sanctions levied against those who commit GBH assualt as those who commit non-consensual genital assault. No one asks the victim of a beating if they consented, nor does the perpetrator's lawyer, insinuate that the victim was ``àsking for it``, (except the perps who claim "gay panic.")

In the legal arena of sexual crimes, the usual presumption of innocence until proven guilty should be scrapped because the preponderance of the global evidence amply demonstrates that males will inflict rape upon any female (or almost any living body) at any time, under almost any circumstance, as long as they believe they can get away with it!

(Only some parts of this commentary are couched in "facetious" language. - in general the intent is deadly serious.)