EDITORIAL: It’s time to change the sexual assault conversation

The words “Me Too” are taking social media by storm this week, inspiring a conversation about sexual assault as women share their own experiences or simply those two little words.

READ MORE: Women tell stories of sexual assault and harassment on social media

A lot of powerful messages have emerged as more and more women join the conversation. It may be surprising to some just how many of their friends and family have posted their own horrific experiences, but sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, according to Statistics Canada.

Despite an increased societal awareness, the rate of reported sexual assaults is similar to what it was a decade ago. While this makes it hard to compile accurate statistics, it is believed that only six out of 100 sexual assaults are reported.

While anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, research shows an elevated risk for women and young individuals, those who identify as non-heterosexual, people with disabilities and those with mental health issues.

We hope this recent conversation will inspire a larger conversation about the shift needed in the way we treat those that have been sexually assaulted. Instead of teaching girls how to avoid becoming victims, we should also be teaching everyone, especially young boys, about boundaries and consent. Consent isn’t sexy, it’s mandatory. And it extends to every form of physical contact.

This sexist model of putting the burden on women and young girls to set limits, prevent the abuse and then when it does happen, to prove that it was unwanted, needs to change. It’s no wonder a huge number of women do not report these crimes after seeing the way those that do come forward are treated by the public and the media. We shouldn’t be teaching young girls that the length of their skirt makes it okay for someone to inappropriately touch them. And that’s the message that’s being reinforced every time a girl is pulled out of a classroom because her outfit is distracting to her male counterparts.

Boys will be boys but they don’t have to be that guy. And that’s on us as a society to teach everyone from a young age.


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