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

Getting enough Vitamin D can be challenging for Canadians, especially during winter months. (CONTRIBUTED)
ACTIVE LIVING: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a vital role in our health

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns gives a thumbs up to active transportation during a presentation of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic site in Port Alberni on April 16, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: MP Gord Johns takes victory ride for cycling strategy

Johns gained a reputation as the bicycle-riding MP during his first year

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Volunteers from the Alberni Valley Enhancement Society release a bucket filled with 5,000 coho fry into Kitsuksis Creek on the bridge at Batty Road, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVID HOOPER)
Volunteers release thousands of coho fry into Port Alberni creeks

Fry come from small hatchery on McLean Mill National Historic Site

In the five years since the Dry Creek flood abatement project was completed, the pathway built behind commercial buildings on Third Avenue has become overgrown with Scotch broom and other weeds. (PHOTO COURTESY RANDY FRASER)
‘New’ Dry Creek path falls into disrepair in Port Alberni

City’s land access contracts lapse as condition of pathway beside creek deteriorates

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

Most Read