Letter to the Editor
The recent verdict in the Jian Gomeshi sexual assault trial brought the issue of sexual violence back into the headlines. The celebrity of this particular case provided unusual media attention but the issues it represents are highly stigmatized. Sexual violence is often ignored and viewed as a topic unfit for polite conversation. Although it is uncommon to talk about sexual violence openly, it affects a shocking number of people.
Statistically, 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes but only 6% of those sexual assaults will be reported to police. Although women are disproportionately affected, boys and men also suffer sexual violence and 15% of all sexual assault victims are boys. Most of the time, we simply don’t talk about it; partly because it’s uncomfortable and partly because we simply don’t know how. In the silence, the violence continues.
The Gomeshi verdict is spotlighting the reasons so few assaults are reported and raising important questions about our culture’s approach to – and expectations of – survivors. The ways that we treat survivors and perpetrators after an assault deserve significant attention but the issue of sexual violence is more complex than simply how we address – or fail to address – it in courts of law.
If we want to make any serious attempt to end sexual violence in our community then we first need to break the silence that surrounds it. We need to educate ourselves and each other about the ways we inadvertently support violence, silence survivors, and encourage perpetrators. We need to learn how to talk about it openly, compassionately, and constructively. We need to learn how to support survivors and encourage systems to reform perpetrators.
It is difficult and messy work socially and emotionally but it is work that must be done if we’re going to bring sexual violence out of the silent shadows where it thrives. Fortunately, there are organizations actively doing this work right here in Grey and Bruce counties.
On April 9, Violence Prevention Grey Bruce is hosting a free arts workshop in Owen Sound to bring the issue of sexual violence into the open. When we don’t know how to start conversations art can help to break the ice; making uncomfortable issues visible, raising awareness, and inspiring solutions. On April 9, artists and survivors will lead workshops in dance, music, poetry, collage, songwriting, and screen printing. All ages and levels of experience are welcome. Participants just need to be willing to create messages that inspire conversations and change. Space is limited and interested participants can visit www.violencepreventiongreybruce.com/events or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. There are also travel grants available to help folks get there.
Jon Farmer, Leith