When “No” Isn’t Enough, We Need to Speak Up

The never-ending cycle of victim blaming, misogyny, and rape culture needs to come to an end

Epifania Alarcon

I sat aboard the 319 to Scott Road Station on the side of the road for around 15 minutes one evening before I asked my fellow passengers why we were at a standstill. One lady responded that we were “waiting for a new bus.” I asked another passenger, hoping to find more answers, and soon learned we were waiting for the police because a young woman had been sexually assaulted on the vehicle.

The young woman was pale, and continuously wiped tears from her face. All she seemed concerned with was that she started work at 6:00 pm that evening, and was now running late.

What also concerned me was how loud the second woman I spoke to was, broadcasting the occurrence of this girl’s assault across the bus. The victim was sitting only two seats behind us.

TransLink’s motto is “See something? Say something!” Unfortunately, that did little to save the young woman who was victimized aboard the bus. Shockingly, inside of a busy bus on one of the most congested transit routes in Surrey, no one noticed she was being assaulted. Whether it’s ignorance, complacency, or sheer indifference—whatever you want to call it, it still leads to the same outcome.

People must be vocal against these crimes. When violated, women, men, and children become victims. Only through empathy and understanding can they begin the healing process.

A report by the Government of British Columbia published in 2015 stated that, in 2014, there were 2,959 reported cases of “sexual assault offenses” across the province. In 2015, the number of reported sexual assaults jumped by 2.3 per cent to 3,028 cases.

Furthermore, a Global News report stated that “data from a 10-year period from 2005 to 2015 shows that, while over 5,200 sexual assaults were reported across the city [of Vancouver], only one in five resulted in charges, and only 2.9 per cent ended up with convictions.”

Of course, those are only the reported assaults.

According to Statistics Canada, 91 to 95 per cent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. A fear of being revictimized, a distrust of the justice system, and feelings of guilt and shame factor into this abhorrently high rate of underreporting.

I was sexually assaulted in a Saskatoon nightclub over two years ago by a man whose face I don’t remember. Once Donald Trump became the Republican front runner for the presidency last fall, he became the subject of a scandal for saying, on tape, that rich and powerful men can get away with grabbing women “by the pussy.”

That’s when all of my memories of that night came flooding back.

But do you know what I keep blaming myself for? I didn’t verbally say, “No.”

I blamed myself, saying that I had been asking for it because I only pushed his hands away during the assault but didn’t tell him “No,” that I was leading him on, and that I was drunk. In my mind, I had convinced myself that, because other women have suffered far more heinous sexual assaults or rapes, that I was not a true victim.

But as I’ve learned, self-blaming, as well as victim blaming, also needs to end.

Do not be passive. Fight like hell and call out misogyny, victim blaming, and rape culture when you see it. If someone had practiced this on the 319, maybe the young woman on the bus wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted. While heading home on the SkyTrain early that evening, all I could think about was how that young woman probably wasn’t going to get any sleep that night.

Our silence equals complacency in this epidemic.

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