By HEATHER STANLEY
When we think of sexual violence, our thoughts are of women. Unfortunately, not very often do we think of men as victims of abuse.
On March 8, International Women’s Day was held to push for an end to sexual violence against women. Two days before, Ontario released a video titled #WhoWillYouHelp which shows various situations where women are the victims of sexual violence. The video is part of a $41 million-plan called “It’s Never Okay” by Premier Kathleen Wynne to address sexual violence.
“When you do nothing, you’re helping him,” the video states. “But when you do something, you help her.” Although it is great that Ontario is spreading the message to its citizens to step in and stop sexual abuse, the video shouldn’t just focus on women. Instead, it should bring to light the fact that men are also victims.
In a February 2013 Statistics Canada Report, police-reported data showed that “about 173,600 women aged 15 years and older were victims of violent crime in 2011.” This means that there are about 1,207 female victims for every 100,000 women. This number was only five per cent higher than the rate for men which was 1,151 victims per 100,000 men. Despite this, men aren’t seen as victims but as aggressors.
It is terrible how little support there is for men who are sexually abused. Organizations like The Men’s Project, a non-profit charitable men’s counselling agency, are few and far between. In contrast, programs for women are numerous and receive considerable funding, most likely due to the fact that we are perceived as damsels in distress in our society. The number of women assaulted is one for every four. It’s a high number, but so is one male in every 10.
The number of attacks we know of today is just an estimate since only 10 per cent of all sexual assaults are reported to police.
Sexual violence is under reported for a variety of reasons. Victims blame themselves, feel embarrassed, fear that they will not be believed or that they will be accused of playing a role in the crime. They may also have a lack of trust in the authorities and the justice system.
The assumption that men always want sex is wrong. If that were true, then there would be no rapes against men. Society needs to understand that both men and women can be victims, or offenders, including in cases of elder abuse or child abuse. Sexual violence is no different, nor should it be perceived as such.
Instead of discriminating against a gender, we need to focus on saying violence is wrong against people as a whole.