On Wednesday, Nov. 23rd CFUW submitted a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, in response to a column written by Margaret Wente. Wente’s article implied that organizations and individuals concerned about sexual assault were part of a “grievance industry”, that really just needs to recognize the fact that rape has declined. So far, the editor has not printed ANY letters in response to this column.
While sexual and gender based violence in Canada may be dropping, Wente missed the mark with her conclusions in Tuesday’s piece on the surprising news about rape statistics.
Just because there have been improvements (in large part due to growing gender equality thanks to the feminist and human rights movements), does not mean that women’s organizations and feminists should stop advocating on behalf of the many women who experience violence every day.
Let’s consider some facts: even with a dramatic decline in gendered based violence many women’s shelters across the country still operate at their full capacity, and some even have to turn women away. For example in 2007, an Ottawa shelter had to turn away more than 1,000 women and children fleeing violence. Consider further the fact that Aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience spousal violence than non-Aboriginal women according to Statistics Canada. With over 600 missing or murdered Aboriginal women today, it is quite insulting to imply that the family, friends and organizations advocating for justice are part of a “grievance industry”.
Without this so called “grievance industry”, which I assume Wente means feminists activists, where would we be today? Perhaps it would still be acceptable to print ads promoting gender based violence as they did in the 50’s. In fact, wasn’t it just a few months ago that an Edmonton based hair salon used images of woman with a blackened eye to promote their services?
Wente is quite right to point out that many rapes go unreported. According to StatsCan, sexual assault is the most under-reported crime, with less than 10% of assaults being reported. If you apply that to Pinker’s stats, than you’d get a number closer to 500 out of 100,000. It may not be 1 in 3, but it is far too many.
Let’s be sure, it’s great that we have made so much progress, but we can and should continue to do more.
Brenda Wallace, National President of the Canadian Federation of University Women