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Myths and misunderstandings of sexual assault

by Archives September 22, 2009

Fifty-six of every 100,000 Quebecers reported being victims of sexual assault in 2008, according to Statistics Canada. Though there was a four per cent increase in reported cases from 2007 to 2008, the current rate still doesn’t come close to representing the amount of Quebecers and Canadians who are actually victims, the federal agency said.
Sexual assault is underreported because the term can be misunderstood, according to Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy.
In an effort to discuss the effects of the ambiguity of the term, several animated and articulate students gathered at the downtown centre campus last week. Because conversation was open and casual about a sensitive topic, those present do not wish to have their full names used.
On one hand, not having a precise definition might be a cause of confusion for some students, the group said. According to the presenter, Noah though, it can also be empowering. “The vagueness of the definition allows folks to self-define the term,” he said. “Because everyone feels differently, and has different sexual boundaries . and everyone’s experiences are valid.”
The focus of the workshop was to understand that people experience different levels of intimacy, and that any action that makes another person feel uncomfortable should be communicated.
The discussion also touched on different ways to approach victims of assault. Noah suggested the best course of action is to take away any feelings of blame or fault the victim might feel.
Over the past several years, there has been push to promote sexual assault awareness among students in high school and university. Seminars are being held across Montreal to erase the myths of assault, and dispel the belief that it happens solely to women.
These discussions and seminars give students a better understanding of themselves and their sexuality, Noah said. “I feel awareness makes folks get equipped to deal with sexual assault,” he said. “It empowers them and they will be able to bring it into their relationships.”
Next month, Jane Doe, a woman who fought an 11-year rape case in Toronto, will speak to Concordia students about her personal experience with the criminal system when dealing with rape victims.

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