Posts Tagged ‘rape’

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (, lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”



Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

My iPhone Raped a Congolese Woman

April 17, 2012

On July 30, 2010 hundreds of armed Rwandan and Congolese rebels entered the town of Ruvungi claiming to be looking for food and shelter. Instead, they gang raped anywhere between 150 and 300 girls, women and young boys, depending on which estimates prove accurate. The victims ranged from babies 10 months old to elderly women. Many women were raped by multiple men, some reporting up to 6. They were violated in front of their families, in front of their children. The nightmare lasted four days.


“Imagine your 15-year-old daughter walking to the corner store to get a carton of milk. She has walked along this street nearly every day growing up. But this afternoon on the way home, a group of men pull her into the bushes. Each man takes a turn raping her, the last one with the barrel of his AK-47. Left bleeding and unable to walk, she takes shelter in the nearby forest. Why doesn’t she go home, you ask? She can’t. The rape is considered her fault. She is now disowned by her family. After surviving weeks on berries and sugar cane she is discovered by a man who thought he smelled a rotting corpse. But the stench is the result of a rape so brutal that the passageway between her vagina and anus broke down, becoming one gaping wound.”

-Robin Wright, actress and advocate for the Enough Project


The UN estimates that the number of women who have been raped in the Congo in the last 10 years is between 200 000 to 300 000. Dr. Denis Mukwege, director and founder of Panzi General Referral Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu province in the DRC says the number is likely much higher. He says “Simple everyday tasks like gathering water, fetching water, expose these women and children to a great danger”. His facility can do 10 surgeries a day, and has treated 24 000 women so far. They also have psychologists on hand to help treat the women. But resources are limited.


A sad story, but what does it have to do with you? Not a thing, unless you are a fan of technology, as I know I am. I love my I-phone. I rely on it to tell me the time, give me my daily schedule, get me places when I don’t know where I’m going, keep me in touch with people, wake me up, play my favorite itunes, tell me the weather, tell me what song is playing and otherwise run my life. I also use a computer every day (alas, I’m typing on one now!), watch TV more than occasionally, dabble in photography, and play a video game here and there. As a consumer of these products, I have blood on my hands. The money I spend on these products filters down to Eastern Congo and helps finance the country’s war. In this war, rebel groups and the national army fight bitterly to control the very profitable mines in the region. These mines produce the ores of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, all of which are crucial in powering the above consumer electronic products none of us can live without. Conflict in the Congo exists for many reasons, political, ethnic, racial, land disputes. But over time it seems the fighting has focused on mineral reserves, and the hundreds of millions of dollars to be made over their control. Control is often gained by murder and rape in order to intimidate and demonstrate power. This has led to millions of Congolese losing their lives, including many young boys being forced to fight on front lines, many unarmed (another blog post altogether-see While there are legitimate mines, many are illegally and forcefully controlled, using young boys as slave labor.


So why are we just standing around and letting this happen? Well for one, people rely on their technology, so there will always be a demand for the products which use these minerals, which means a supply will be required. Secondly, minerals from the Congo are cheap, about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of those from other countries which produce them. And, according to electronics companies it is nearly impossible to trace the origin of the minerals their manufacturers use. But there is hope. In July 2010 The US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act was signed into law which requires American companies to ensure the raw materials they use to make their product not be tied into the conflict in the Congo by auditing the mineral supply chains. A great idea, but many feel there are too many loopholes for companies, and many popular companies that produce electronics are not American. Also, at this point there is no good system in place to properly distinguish between conflict and non-conflict minerals. One man, Delly Mawazo Sesete from DRC has petitioned Apple to make all of their iPhones conflict free by christmas 2013. He has launched his campaign on The problem? He wants Apple to purchase minerals from the Congo, just not from militia mines. However, at this time, it is very difficult to determine which mines are militia mines and which are not, and the only way a company can be sure they are not buying conflict minerals is to not purchase any minerals from the Congo at all. Good idea, you say. However, by doing this, tens of thousands of miners working legitimate mines will be without jobs and will have no way of feeding their families. Clearly this is something that needs to be worked on so that we can do the best thing for the Congolese people.


So should we all throw out our iPhones? Toss our iPads? Let’s not be rash here. But maybe we can use our technology to spread the word, sign a virtual petition, or share this information with our friends on Facebook. There is no better force for change than education and knowledge. We can speak to the rest of the world for the women in the Congo whose voices have been silenced by fear.