Sharing some old stuff I wrote

Hey guys,

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here, however I intend to get back into the trend of using this space to explore some more academic pursuits and using it as a space to ‘free write’ when ideas come to me – to remain in the practice of writing academically.

However, until that happens, I thought I would share part of a paper I wrote a while ago. So read on if you’re interested, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if this is a topic you are interested in, I would be happy to share the full document.

Creating the Body: Social Media and Sexual Violence

This paper will explore the intersections of the body as a sexed and gendered space through the lens of social and cultural construction and will view the concepts of sex and gender as inherently performative. Using the context of sexual violence and narratives surrounding sexual violence within North America this paper will explore if and how sexual violence (re)produces understandings of the body or (re)constitutes the body. Through this process, the paper hopes to explore whether narratives of sexual violence and victimhood can be understood through discourses of performativity and the body. Simone de Beauvoir’s statement that ’one is not born, but rather, becomes a woman’ is incredibly salient for the purposes of this paper as it is through performativity that one embodies the sexed or gendered body (De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]). Through the process of ’becoming‘ woman, the body is marked as deviant from the male body and within the process of ‘becoming’ it is important to question the role of social media in producing normative bodies and of sexual violence in marking some bodies (Butler, 1990; De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]).

In a sense, this paper operates on the assumption that the body does exist as a social space through which individuals can embody sex and gender, but also as a space through which performativity is read by an external audience through the lens of culture and society (Butler, 1990; De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]). By examining the body through these processes, I hope to understand the impacts that sexual violence has both as creating an imprint on the body but also in how performativity is read (Foucault, 1977 [1975]; Foucault, 1978 [1976]). Within recent media attention and within sexual violence research, we have seen a trend away from (re)victimizing those who have experienced sexual violence; this, alongside the extremely low instances of reposing sexual violence demonstrates there is something salient about how people are perceived if they are open about experiences of sexual violence (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2008). I argue that the importance of these perceptions can be understood through an analysis of the body and of performativity in the context of sexual violence and social media.

To do so, this paper will follow some common experiences that occur prior to, during, and following  instances of sexual violence — particularly as represented through social media — using three  recent cases from North America;  herein referred to as the Ohio case, the Missouri case, and the Nova Scotia case — these cases will also be referred to collectively where inferences can be made. . .

Research struggles

There are a lot of aspects of research that I struggle with, mainly because of my research interests. I’m interested in sexual violence in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC, I want to know if the horrific history and legacy of Belgian colonial rule have had an impact in domestic sexual relations and if so, how, and why, I want to know where development funding is going and what kind of impact it’s having, I want to know if development funding could be better directed (most always it can be, but how and under what kind of program), I want to know women and men’s experiences of sexual assault either through conflict or not. But I struggle with this because I’m not part of the culture. While my research isn’t aiming to tell anyone to change anything (apart from maybe development agendas) and is instead aiming to understand what is happening and why, I worry that this could be misconstrued, that I will be perceived as doing what so many people have done before and just contribute to the continued violence of colonialism. So I’m stuck in this bubble, struggling with myself on whether this kind of research would be a good contribution to knowledge, or whether it’s ideological and would be better done by someone else. 

One in Seven

Originally written for the International Women’s Initiative. See the original post here.

In light of the recent media regarding sexual assault and rape in India as well as the information presented via social media in the past month, I would like to remind everyone that sexual assault is not only a problem in developing nations. In fact, sexual assault occurs in every country in the world and globally between 15-71% of women ages 15-49 have experience sexual assault (the statistic shows the range of national averages). Yet despite the remarkably high number of women affected by sexual assault there is still a stigma associated with it, a stigma that exists in every culture and society I have ever been, seen, experienced, read of or heard of.

Women around the world are raised and told to protect themselves; don’t show too much skin, don’t walk around alone at night, don’t walk around alone, cover your drink at a bar, and the list goes on and on. Women are taught these things from childhood and it seems normal; I remember being thirteen years old going to my first school dance and reminded to cover my water or pop, never put my drink down, and to be careful. It may seem insignificant because actions like that were probably normalized for you as well. Like many people I grew up in a society where I had to constantly be on guard, there exists a fear of being drugged, or raped, or beaten; women receive information every single day about how to avoid a sexual assault, how to escape a dangerous situation, and what life changes should be made to be safer. Does it still seem normal? Does it seem normal to have to change aspects of every single day of your life to be safe, to be able to life out the same rights and freedoms as the male half of the population?

Canada, like all but six countries, (United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Palau, and Tonga) has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women yet, like most countries, these policies have failed to result in significant societal change at this point in time. In Canada only 0.33% of sexual assaults result in convictions and many factors play into this; only 9% of sexual assaults are reported, only 33% of reported sexual assaults result in charges, and only 11% of charges result in convictions. Why is this? Canada, like many nations, places the responsibility and blame for a woman’s protection on the woman herself; why else would we be telling women to cover up and dress more ‘appropriately’? Women are regularly questioned regarding their conduct prior to the sexual assault and encouraged to not press charges, in many cases by the authorities tasked with upholding justice and the rule of law. Sound familiar? It should be, as this is the case in almost every country in the world.

When you read about sexual assault and rape do not ignore it, do not pass the information by, instead take it to heart and know that statistically a minimum of one in seven of your female friends have experienced sexual assault, although that number is likely much higher. So do not let this become a statistic, do not wave it off as something that will affect you because likely it already affects you and at least one person who is close to you. Make it personal and do something about it: you can be an advocate for women and victims of sexual assault, you can denormalize victim blaming, and you can do something.

We should not be scared of going out…

“We should not be scared of going out and we shouldn’t have to protect ourselves with cooking ingredients.”

-Kajol Batra, a 28 year old student in Delhi responding to a senior Indian police officer who told women to avoid rape by not going out at dark and carrying chili powder to throw at offenders.

Abstract – Genocide: Perpetrated through Sexual Violence

I’ve recently finished a paper which examined the ways in which sexual violence can constitute acts of genocide and it’s a paper I’d like to continue to develop with additional research and additional case studies to better represent a variety of geographical locations. For the meantime, I thought I would share my abstract and once the mark from class becomes official I will share the rest of the paper as well.

Genocide and sexual violence are relatively new topics in the realm of international humanitarian law, yet their interconnectivity has caused some of the worst humanitarian crisis from the twentieth century into the present time. In understanding the ways in which specific instances of sexual violence have contributed to and constituted acts of genocide it can be argued that, in context, sexual violence can be a means and act of genocide. Through analysis of secondary sources and government reports this paper will examine the experiences of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to demonstrate the ways in which sexual violence has been used as a tool of genocide. 

Sincere apologies

A small update for everyone!

I’m currently writing the last academic papers of my undergraduate degree titled “Genocide: Perpetrated through Sexual Violence” and “Gender Mainstreaming in Structural Adjustment: The Forgotten Element”. I’ll share more on these later.

Once those are submitted I’ll be back in full force and excited to share some of what I learnt while writing them (particularly the one about genocide).

What’s interesting about my degree is that while this is my last academic term (which will officially end tonight at midnight), I still have eight months left of my degree. However those eight months will be spent in Vietnam working for the Center for Sustainable Rural Development.

I will be leaving Canada September 9th around noon, but I will be leaving home (aka Northern Ontario) near the end of August, so in the mean time if there is anything you’re interested in regarding gender issues, my placement, or anything that you think I’d find interesting, please share it with me and I’d be happy to read/write about it.

Sexual Assault in Canada

This is an essay I wrote for Women and Law, I chose to put it up because it shows that sexual assault law in Canada is relatively new and still has a long way to come. It also shows the terrifyingly low statistics of sexual assault convictions. Only 9% of sexual assaults are reported, only 33% of those result in charges, and only 11% of those result in convictions.

That means that only 0.33% of sexual assaults in Canada result in convictions.

So read on and tell me what you think.

Sexual assault law in Canada has come a long way but still has many gaps (Tang, 1998), which become apparent when looking at the case of R. v. O’Connor, case law surrounding sexual assault and the production of records, and victimization statistics from Canada. With the introduction of additional reforms to increase the involvement of women and minorities in the Canadian legal system and to decrease the instances of sexual violence against women, hopefully the legal system can become a symbol of equality and women’s rights. In analyzing at the Canadian legal system, it is also important to understand that it is inherently gendered and has traditionally be developed, interpreted, and implemented by men, making it difficult for women-centered reform and equality to be included (Davidson, 2011).

The case of R. v. O’Connor provides one of the clearest examples of the ‘discriminatory use of personal records in sexual violence cases’ (Busby, 2009, p. 519). In this instance, four Aboriginal women brought their former principal, priest, and employer to court for sexual assault that had occurred while he was in a position of authority over them. These women had grown up from the age of six in a residential school under O’Connor’s direct supervision and had become victims of sexual assault from O’Connor when they were in their 20’s and working under his supervision (Busby, 2009, p. 520). When in court, this discrimination was continued when O’Connor’s defense was able to acquire and utilize the women’s records from residential school—many of which would have been in part created by O’Connor. The women were also forced to release any additional records from therapy, counseling, or other services they may have acquired. During this case, it was argued that O’Connor’s right to a fair trial required accessing the personal records of the complainants in order to make a full defense and argument (Busby, 2009, p. 520). This case truly set the standard in allowing the accused to access the complainant’s personal files and records and cause further discrimination against and emotional distress to the complainant.

Following R. v. O’Connor’s ruling in allowing production, reporting of sexual assault decreased dramatically as did the numbers of women seeking counseling following sexual assault (Busby, 2009, p. 526). Therapists were forced to inform women seeking their services that any notes or proceedings of their meetings could be subpoenaed in the event that charges were brought to court. Group therapy sessions could exclude women who had experienced sexual assault as any group member could be subpoenaed and forced to attend trial if the case went to court (Busby, 2009, p. 526). Many women were left with little options and felt forced to choose between therapy and justice (Dawson, 2009, p. 528).

Bill C-46 amended the Criminal Code and applied some limitations to the production of the complainant’s personal records to try to apply a degree of protection to the complainant’s right to life, liberty, and security of person (Dawson, 2009, p. 528). These amendments were also made as the Supreme Court came to recognize that the production of personal records was requested almost exclusively in cases of sexual assault (Busby, 2009, p. 525) and are used to try to cause disrepute to a complainant’s credibility, actions, and character (Busby, 2009, p. 520; Dawson, 2009, p. 528).  As production occurs primarily in cases of sexual assault and as women are the primary victims of sexual assault the production of records was discriminating against the privacy and rights of women and children as well as further discriminating and perpetrate stereotypes (Busby, 2009, p. 525; Belzil, 2009, p. 535). Bill C-46 was fought against in the case of R. v. Mills as the accused argued that in balancing constitutional rights he was being denied the right to a fair trial. In discussing the case Belzil (2009, p. 533) also stated that in sexual assault cases, the accused in on trial however, in utilizing personal records the complainant and their credibility is essentially put on trial. While Bill C-46 does provide some additional protection to women and victims of sexual assault, it also leaves the definition of relevance and its ability to further discrimination to be defined and interpreted by the judge (Department of Justice, Canada, 2011; Tang, 1998, p. 267), which allows for some elements of inequality to still be present.

As stated by Busby (2009, p. 523), when rapists select a victim, a trend is to look for vulnerability and availability and this has little to do with the actions of women themselves. Vulnerability becomes a key factor in the case of minority women as visible minorities in Canada face a higher instance of sexual assault and violent crime and tend to view the court poorly in terms of delivering justice (only twenty-two percent view it positively) and helping the victim (only twenty-nine percent believe the victim is helped) (Statistics Canada, 2008). As a result of this, visible minorities are less likely to report instances of crime and to instill their trust into the Canadian justice system. This idea of vulnerability rings true when analyzing the statistics surrounding victimization with 211 incidents per 1000 persons who are visible minorities and only 107 instances for non-visible minorities (Statistics Canada, 2008).

The lack of faith in the criminal justice system seems understandable when only nine percent of sexual assaults are reported, and of that only 33 percent result in charges, and of that only eleven percent result in convictions, meaning that only 0.32 percent of sexual assaults result in convictions (Davidson, 2011; Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2008, p. 6). This leaves a staggering number of criminals walking free and leaves women and victims with a declining sense of trust in the Canadian legal system. The lack of trust in reporting sexual assault also makes it harder for women and victims to seek reparation and help for the acts committed against them; this cycle of thought leads not only to rape myths, but also to a stigma against the victim (Busby, 2009, p. 526). These beliefs further victimize the woman or victim in everyday life, and cause additional victimization regardless of whether the assault is brought to trial or not.

While the Canadian legal system has made substantial changes towards improving victim and complainant rights during sexual assault cases, additional reforms are necessary. Without changes occurring outside of the legal system, it is highly unlikely that legal reform will be realized to its full potential (Tang, 1998, pp. 266-268). Legal reform should be matched with education reform for all (potential victims and offenders) and additional support networks for victims should be developed—through sexual assault centres, health clinics, or support groups (Tang, 1998, p. 268) that would be developed outside of the reach of the court. Increased education would also increase the likelihood that women report all instances of sexual assault to authorities, as currently women are more likely to only report instances of sexual assault that they deem to be violent or have caused physical harm to them. Educational components would help to reduce the stigma associated with sexual assault and rape myths and these components should be developed with the support of groups catering to ethnic and religious minorities to help further the sense of community support (Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, 2009; Tang, 1998, p. 268).

Sources

Belzil, J. (2009). R. v. Mills (Alta. Q.B.). In T. B. Dawson, Women, Law and Social Change: Core Readings and Current Issues (Fifth Edition ed., pp. 532-538). Concord, Ontario, Canada: Captus Press.

Busby, K. (2009). Discriminatory Uses of Personal Records in Sexual Violence Cases. In T. B. Dawson, Women, Law and Social Change: Core Readings and Current Issues (Fifth Edition ed., pp. 519-528). Concord, Ontario, Canada: Captus Press.

Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2008). Sexual Assault in Canada, 2004. Statistics Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Industry.

Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada. (2009). No Stigma for Rape Victims in Islam. In T. B. Dawson, Women, Law and Social Change: Core Readings and Current Issues (Fifth Edition ed., p. 548). Concord, Ontario, Canada: Captus Press.

Davidson, T. (2011). Women and the Law.

Dawson, T. B. (2009). Bill C-46, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (production of records in sexual offence proceedings). In T. B. Dawson, Women, Law and Social Change: Core Readings and Current Issues (Fifth Edition ed., pp. 528-532). Concord, Ontario, Canada: Captus Press.

Department of Justice, Canada. (2011, 11 22). Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46) Sections 271-278.91. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2008, 11 17). Visible Minorities and Victimization: Findings. Retrieved 11 25, 2011, from Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85f0033m/2008015/5002072-eng.htm

Tang, K.-l. (1998). Rape Law Reform in Canada: The Success and Limits of Legislation. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology , 42 (3), 258-270.