New Rules to Help Rape Victims

by Alex

I know all my previous posts regarding newspaper articles and TV commercials have been all about debunking myths and tearing apart the victim blaming. But I finally came upon an article that shines a little light onto the issues surrounding sexual violence. “New Rules to Help Rape Victims” is an article that was published in The Dominion Post (a New Zealand newspaper). This is the same paper that published “The Dark Side of a Girl’s Night Out,” the article that Joe blogged about in his last post. It’s surprising to see such polar opposite mindsets in one newspaper.

Way too often cases are deemed inactive (not enough evidence to go to trial) because the survivor never explicitly said “no” during the assault. As KB posted earlier, there are different ways to react during an assault; fight, flight or freeze and not everyone will react the same way. Fortunately, the article has some positive news regarding this issue:

Defendants accused of rape could also face a new test of consent meaning a woman would effectively have to have said ‘yes’ to sexual activity rather than simply not saying ‘no’.

This new rule will bring justice to all those who had a normal response to the attack by freezing. Passing this rule will no longer allow perpetrators to use the excuse that they didn’t know the other party wasn’t consenting. This puts the responsibility back on the offender to obtain consent before continuing rather than allowing them to push the boundaries until they hear a “no” which often isn’t said. Consent is not difficult to identify. Either both parties are willing, active participants or verbal consent was freely given. Even if there is still uncertainty, JUST ASK and this rule puts emphasis on this.

This comes back to “yes means yes” rather than “no means no” because there are many ways to show resistance which aren’t always verbal. Closing eyes, turning away, and laying limp are all signs of resistance but, as of now, these are not recognized by the law. This new rule will validate all those that showed signs of resistance but were ignored by the offender who continued anyway.

It is understood Mr Power wants to go further by restricting the ability of defence lawyers to discredit rape complainants by trawling through their sexual histories.

Defence lawyers would have to convince judges of the merit of such evidence before it could be admitted.

This is only common sense! What does sexual history have to do with someone’s sexual assault? Anyone at anytime has the right to resist sexual advances and someone’s sexual history plays no part in that. This is the pinnacle of victim blaming and it is done by our so called “justice system.” The sexual assault itself is incredibly traumatizing on its own, but to be discredited by unrelated events is unimaginable. This new rule is a step towards equality when it comes to the justice system. There will not only be justice for “good girls,” but for everyone no matter what their sexual history is.

Perhaps Canada could learn a thing or two from these actions taken by New Zealand. It’s a few baby steps in the right direction. There is hope now that certain governments are taking progressive action and are becoming more sensitive to the issues of sexual violence.

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