Rape culture puts the onus on survivors rather than perpetrators.	(THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo/Darren Calabrese)

Rape culture puts the onus on survivors rather than perpetrators. (THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo/Darren Calabrese)

Explainer: What is rape culture and what does it look like in B.C.?

A rise in sexual assault allegations being made online prompts conversation

The term “rape culture” became front of mind for many Greater Victoria residents last week when, in the wake of numerous sexual assault allegations and firings, Coun. Stephen Andrew tweeted that he didn’t believe it exists in the capital region.

Andrew quickly deleted his initial tweet calling it clumsy and dismissive. “I wholeheartedly apologize,” he wrote in a new one. “We must address rape culture.”

But for many, the damage had already been done, and the tweet was indicative that not only does rape culture still exist, but many people also don’t understand what it means.

Councillor Stephen Andrew quickly removed this tweet March 28 after receiving public backlash. (Screenshot)

The term was originally coined in the 1970s by second-wave feminists who fought to control the representation of themselves in popular culture and to legislate their rights around rape, reproduction and domestic violence. It wasn’t until 1983 that Canada made marital rape illegal.

But rape culture is about far more than rape. It’s a sociological concept for an environment where sexualized violence is permissible and normalized.

When Alyx MacAdams runs youth workshops at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, they have participants imagine rape culture as a pyramid. At the very top is sexual assault, but down below are all the building blocks that make it so pervasive.

Street harassment, catcalling, objectifying comments, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and trivializing rape are all part of rape culture. So is teaching young women not to walk alone at night and sending them home from school for baring their shoulders. It puts the onus on survivors rather than perpetrators.

Of Canadians aged 15 or older, 30 per cent of women and eight per cent of men have been sexually assaulted, according to 2018 data from Statistics Canada. Of them, one in five felt blamed for what happened and the vast majority never reported it to police.

These numbers only increase when intersected with the effects of racism, classism, transphobia and colonization. Indigenous women, for example, face rates of sexual assault three times higher than non-Indigenous women.

These marginalized groups are also more likely to distrust police and less likely to go to them for help.

“Rape culture continues to put survivors in a position where they feel like they may not be believed or fear the consequence of backlash,” MacAdams said.

In 2020, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre responded to 2,094 people who called its service access line and provided emergency sexual assault response to 74 recent survivors. It also supported 289 new clients in crisis counselling, 106 new clients in long term counselling and 198 new clients in victim services.

The harm of a public official denying the existence of rape culture is that it delegitimizes these survivors’ experiences, University of Victoria gender studies professor Annalee Lepp said.

“You’re erasing the incidents that have emerged.”

It’s particularly harmful, MacAdams added, coming from someone who has a say in public policy and police funding.

Following his tweet, Andrew brought a motion to council on April 1 asking that a task force on sexual abuse be formed. Council voted to postpone his motion, noting that it is expecting a staff report in the next four to six weeks on a similar motion that was raised in June 2019.

That motion, on preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, asked council to make sexualized violence prevention training mandatory for bar and nightclub staff and requested that a prevention plan be submitted alongside all liquor license applications.

Prevention education is one key part of building what MacAdams calls “consent culture,” or the antidote to rape culture.

“We need to move toward more community responsibility,” they said. It’s time for more active bystanders, more call-outs and more supportive spaces.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Anyone who wishes to report an incident or has information about an incident can call the VicPD report desk at 250-995-7654 ext. 1. The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre also offers counselling, victim services and a sexual assault response team. The centre can be reached 24/7 at 250-383-3232.

RELATED: Fourth Greater Victoria real estate agent fired over allegations of sexual assault

RELATED: Victoria venue hires Consent Captain

sexual assaultVictoria

Just Posted

(Clockwise, from top-left) Brenda DeJong, Carol Jones, Marcia Strang, Cathy Collis and Mark East star in the upcoming Sidekick Players Zoom presentation of the Norm Foster play “Halfway There,” directed by Carroll Lefebvre, on May 22, 2021. (Submitted photos)
Delta’s Sidekick Players continue ‘Foster Zoom Fest’ with ‘Halfway There’

Tsawwassen-based theatre company hosting another online performance on Saturday, May 22

Sergeant Mike Sanchez of the Surrey Gang Enforcement Team speaking with students. (Photo: RCMP).
Surrey RCMP’s anti-gang program goes virtual amid COVID-19 pandemic

Presentations aimed at youth available to be booked

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Discussions about Surrey-owned land in Langley should be behind closed doors, councillors say

That’s what Councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and former Surrey mayor Bob Bose say

Little House Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Society COO Debbi McKenzie stands in front of the society’s namesake facility with Phoenix Drug Alcohol Recovery and Education Society CEO Keir Macdonald. (Submitted photo)
Delta’s Little House Society merging with Surrey-based Phoenix Society

Merger ‘came together in a really organic way’ as societies have been working together for two years

Elsje Hannah stands in the old safe at the Healing Place Counselling Centre in the Dale Building. Hannah converted the old safe into a chapel-area for quiet reflection for clients at her practice, which includes the not-for-profit Soul Matters Counselling. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Not-for-profit counselling service opens in Cloverdale

Soul Matters Counselling is located on 176th in the Dale Building

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

Most Read