We would like to thank writer Nina Grossman and the Oak Bay News for the important article in the July 2 issue, “Saanich woman says sexual assault was dismissed by police.”
It’s vital that the public hear these stories in order to realize the prevalence not only of sexual assault but also that of harmful responses by the legal system and police. It took great courage for Ashley to go to the police, and we’re appalled at the treatment she received.
The officer on the case failed to recognize the act committed against her as a crime and, indeed, blamed her for its occurrence. Here, law enforcement has not only failed Ashley but will potentially deter others from reporting a crime of sexual assault.
This police officer’s conclusion that the assault “didn’t count” reveals a widespread societal belief that men are entitled to women’s bodies and that consent is a given unless various conditions are met. One of these conditions is that the women “fight back.”
As University of Victoria law professor Rebecca Johnson states in the article, this belief is “legally wrong.” Furthermore, people who are sexually assaulted often “freeze”— a third possible response to threat, along with “fight or flight.” Additionally, the police officer in this case decided the word “no” was not enough. What part of “no” is unclear?
Consent to sexual activity is not the default setting, ever. During all stages of a sexual encounter, it is crucial to be certain that each person is a willing participant. Even the lack of the word “no” does not constitute consent. To paraphrase Professor Johnson again, ‘implied consent’ is not a valid defence to a charge of sexual assault. Everyone’s rights to the integrity of their own bodies trumps the wish of anyone else to have sex. To act contrary to this principle is unethical, deeply harmful — and illegal.
Janet Millar, Gerry Millar
and Laura Kellough-Pollock