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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Splatsin First Nation concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, will struggle to recover without habitat protection and restoration action - report

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Sisters Audrey Cunningham and Donna Erdman, join the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus singing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Okanagan choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Singers find a unique way to practice during pandemic restrictions

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

A Falkland man will present a 600+ signature petition to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board Thursday, May 20, opposing dog control in Electoral Area D, which includes Falkland, Silver Creek, Salmon Valley and Ranchero/Deep Creek. (File photo)
600-plus sign Falkland man’s petition against dog control

Similar bylaw rejected by 200 public hearing attendees when topic came up 9 years ago

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Notes of hope, encouragement and camaraderie were left on the message board inside the kitchen of TacoTime. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Adiós, Taco Tuesday: Kelowna residents flock to TacoTime on restaurant’s final day

‘We don’t need another Starbucks. We need tacos on Tuesday, with extra hot sauce’

Most Read