This gender-based violence is rooted in an inherent imbalance of power.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published May 01, 2015
This series of articles will be addressing the issue of sexual assault. The material might be upsetting to some readers. Please take necessary precautions and have a plan of self-care in place should you find yourself reacting to the material.
This is the second in a series of articles for Sexual Assault Prevention Month.
460,000 Sexual Assaults a Year in Canada (Image Credit: YWCA Canada)
Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature forced by one or more persons upon another individual. This includes unwanted touching (also known as sexual harassment) and rape.
Drugs or alcohol may be used to intoxicate the victim. This includes alcohol or drugs that the victim has consumed either voluntarily or involuntarily as well as the use of anesthesia during an operation or proceedure.
It's clear that men and boys are victims of sexual abuse, but 86 percent of victims of sexual assault who reported to police in 2004 were female. This article will focus on sexual assault as a women's and girl's issue.
Statistics often bring trends to light and validate the importance of exploring specific issues like the sexual assault of women and girls. Here's well established statistics from the Ontario Women's Directorate:
Over the past decade the breakdown of sexual assaults remained unchanged with 81 percent of incidents involving unwanted sexual touching and 19 percent involving sexual attacks.
Age is most definitely a defining factor. 47 percent of violent crimes committed against girls under 12 years of age are sexual in nature.
The Violence Against Women Survey, Statistics Canada, 1993 is often quoted because it was, and continues to be, the most comprehensive survey of its kind. No Statistics Canada survey since has asked women about their life-time experience of violence. Thanks to this survey, it's known that 29 percent of female undergraduate students reported incidences of sexual assault.
On-campus assaults often take place during the first eight weeks of classes. Over 80 percent of the rapists are known to their victims. Half of these incidences occur on dates.
When the abuser is not a spouse, women under the age of 35 are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women over 35 years of age.
It's extremely clear that girls and young women face the greatest risk of being sexual assaulted.
One in three Canadian women will be sexual assaulted in their lifetime. The fact that over 33 percent of women will experience assault is extremely disturbing, but the numbers increase dramatically if we focus on marginalized women: 57 percent of aboriginal women and 83 percent of disabled women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
Men are the perpetrators 99 percent of the time when women are sexual assaulted. In 80 percent of these cases the assailant was a fellow employee, acquaintance, religious leader, health care provider, friend or family member. When the perpetrator is someone you thought you could trust it's catastrophic!
Sexual assaults occur in private homes 80 percent of the time. An astonishing 36 percent of the assaults take place in the woman's own home. Sexual assault happening in a setting that should be safe is devastating!
For every 100 incidents of sexual assault committed by someone other than a spouse, only 6 are reported to the police. In the case of 'date rape' only 1 percent or 2 percent of assaults are reported. This is significant given the fact that 50 percent of sexual assaults occur during 'dates.'
At the end of the day, only 0.3 percent of perpetrators are convicted.
Sexual assault within marriage became a criminal offence in 1983. Only 53 percent of women sexually assaulted by a spouse report to police.
According to the now-defunct Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (1985), every 17 minutes, a woman is raped.
This gender-based violence is rooted in an inherent imbalance of power. It will continue as long as offenders regard sexually assaulting girls and women as a right rather than a crime. The situation is compounded when the abusers and rapists are not held accountable for their actions. Educating boys and young men is our only hope.
May 1 is the start of Sexual Assault Prevention month in Canada. It's important to remember that #NoOneAsksForIt!
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