It is more than politically incorrect to suggest or imply that the way a woman dresses contributes to the risk of sexual assault. Yet, if a person walks into a ghetto flashing a wad of cash, we do not hesitate to state that he should not have done so, and should have known that he was at increased risk of being attacked.
In the city near where I live, we hear, almost weekly, of people being accosted and robbed of their alcohol when they leave a beer vendor in a rough neighbourhood late at night. We shake our heads and say, “what was he thinking?”
On the other side of the coin, when a person climbs the social ladder because of good looks or powerful personality, we may resent it, but we understand how he achieved that success. The person who studies hard, goes to university and receives accolades for his hard work deserves the prestige and power that comes with his personal efforts.
It has been a long time since I was young enough to frequent the nightclubs, and, because of my age, I undoubtedly will be branded as a dinosaur for my opinions in this article. However true the “antique” label may be, the opinions should not be disregarded, simply because of the ease with which age is stereotyped as a cause of archaic thinking. In fact, many of you already probably are assuming that I am not only old, but male, and a rigid, conservative thinker. You would make these assumptions incorrectly.
Recently, a “dinosaur” on the bench of a Manitoba court heard a case involving a sexual assault on a young woman. The woman, along with her companion, had, according to reports, made it known that they were out to party. She was, according to the media, wearing a tank top, short skirt, and, apparently, looking every bit the part of a person looking for an evening of fun.
The judge, Justice Robert Dewar, in convicting and sentencing the person who ultimately assaulted her, made the comment that, by her dress and appearance, she had left the impression that “sex was in the air.” The uproar that resulted was predictable. This older man was branded as insensitive, and worse. He was accused of being insensitive to rape victims. Victims’ rights groups demanded his resignation.
A few months earlier, a Toronto police officer was subjected to vitriol and condemnation for suggesting that women could reduce risk by dressing less like tarts.
There is no excuse for predatory behaviour by anyone. Sexual assault deserves sentencing that equals manslaughter, since it leaves permanent scars on the victim, and takes away a part of that person’s life, in many cases. However, the idea that the way a person dresses and behaves should not be mentioned as a contributor to the risk of being attacked is not only myopic, it is damaging to the safety of potential victims, who, indeed, could reduce, however minutely, the risk of attack.
Was Judge Dewar wrong in what he said? I don’t believe that the essence of his comments was wrong. We do, indeed, need to be accountable for our actions: both the victim and criminal. However, we have become so politically correct in Canada that we risk being ostracized if we dare to imply that sexual assault victims should exercise the same caution that the rest of us are asked to do. I feel badly for the victim. I believe that the perpetrator should be incarcerated. I think that the judge chose his words poorly. But I think that we all need to be more accountable for our actions.
Lastly, as to your probable preconceived notion as to who I am, I am, indeed, an older male. However, my history is one of fighting for the rights and protection of those people around me who are vulnerable. And, the impetus for this article came from my wife, Janice, who was the first to state that the young girls who dress provocatively should have had more sense, and taken precautions.