Women's Rights and Sexual Violence: How Volunteering at the Women's Center of Montreal Can Help the Problem

by Naomie Tat on March 31, 2017 - 10:11am

Last Thursday, Robin Camp, a Canadian judge who gained popularity last year when he asked a sexual assault victim why she could not just keep her “knees together”, resigned from Federal Court. It was a rare event in the Canadian justice system and was followed by the release of a report from the Judicial Council which demanded him to be fired. The report described that “[the] judge’s misconduct was manifestly serious and reflected a sustained pattern of beliefs of a particularly deplorable kind”.  In addition, it was just the beginning of what came to be many episodes and many cases which prompted questions from the general public on how sexual assault cases are handled in Canada. For example, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a complainant was found drunk at the back of a taxi and was told by the provincial court judge, Judge Gregory Lenehan, that “[clearly], a drunk can consent”. In Newfoundland, prosecutors appealed the acquittal of a police officer who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman who was intoxicated and solely asked for a ride home. In 2014, at the Alberta Provincial Court, a young nineteen-year-old woman was referred to as “the accused” by Justice Camp and was told that she was not “vigorous or creative enough in trying to stop the assault”. Camp also said that “sex and pain sometimes go together […] that’s not necessarily a bad thing ”, which outraged many in the general public.That particular case demonstrated the poor treatment of vulnerable witnesses. In brief, the many highly publicized trials of sexual assault cases have increased public awareness of how courts handle these cases. People are increasingly interested in the country and the fact that the judicial system is starting to respond accordingly by firing judges who misconduct. 

 

To contribute to further solving of women's issues and to the bettering of the lives of women in my community, I will be volunteering at the Women's Centre of Montreal. Since its foundation in 1987, the non-profit charitable organization has the mission to “promote and support the interests, objectives and goals of the Women’s Centre of Montreal “. The centre provides educational training and vocational training so they can communicate their concerns to the general public as a way to catalyze change in women’s issues. With the financial support of Centraide du Grand Montréal, it also helps women get informed and get counseling, which allows them to better help themselves. The centre offers volunteering in many different fields and people who want to get involved can offer their help to women in many ways, such as accompanying them to court, for sexual violence, domestic violence and divorce cases, conducting workshops and English conversation groups, assisting in donating clothes and food to women in need, etc. By volunteering at the Women's Centre of Montreal, I am giving a hand to the women in my community and helping the problem of sexual violence. I will be offering my listening skills to women in need and referring them to experts to seek proper help with their specific issues. I believe I could also be helpful in informing people or even helping with managing the donations, as I love to meet and talk to people. Lastly, I also offered to assist events, as well as workshops, and to be a photographer if they ever needed pictures for their website or social media. The volunteering will take place as soon as I get an interview and could be as early as next week. However, the volunteering should take place around the end of April.

 

Here is the article describing the many highly publicized cases of sexual violence in the past year: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/world/canada/canada-judge-robin-camp-resigns.html?_r=0

Here is a link to become a volunteer at the Women's Centre of Montreal:  https://en.centredesfemmesdemtl.org/become-a-volunteer/

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Comments

That is an interesting observation that you have made, and I think this study is significant. The unequal treatment in court has always been an issue, especially the way that people treats victims of sexual assaults. This phenomenon is related to the term "rape culture." It is a concept that describes the normalization of rape committed by a man and the blaming of victims that are women. "you will not be raped if you do not dress so sexy." is often the phrase that people uses to blame women victim. At the same time, the society tells women to dress sexy and to express their beauty. This blame makes men's committing such a crime reasonable, and it shifts the focus on forcing a woman to the inability to resist the temptation. This ideology is entirely social constructed, where men are told to be dominant, and women are told to be obsessive. Men with power and strength can do anything that he wants to a woman. This ideology drives the ignorance of sports star's crime including rape and domestic violence. I believe this information could help your volunteering work and raise people's awareness.

Some links that might be useful:
definition of rape culture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture
examples of rape culture: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/03/examples-of-rape-culture/
victime blaming: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/the-psychology-of-vi...

This article is very well written and your examples prove that we live in a society in which sexual assault cases are usually not taken seriously in the court. In fact, people tend to minimize the gravity of the crime, and women who suffer from sexual assault receive poor treatment. The fact that you are volunteering at the Women’s Centre of Montreal is a very nice way to help these women and to raise awareness of how the court treats their cases. However, you did not explain in your article the reason why these women are so poorly treated in the court.

In order to understand this phenomenon, you should agree with the fact that our society promotes rape culture. The term “rape culture” does not mean that we live in a society in which all men are rapists. In fact, rape culture is an ideology which minimizes the act of rape by accusing the victim, empathizing with the perpetrator, denying the frequency of the crime, or encouraging sexual violence against women. There are many domains in our society where rape culture is clearly expressed. For example, in the domain of advertising, objectification of women and sexual violence against women are often promoted in order to attract male customers. You can check this link to see some of these disturbing advertisements: http://www.genderads.com/styled-13/photos-59/. Similarly, rape culture is also encouraged in video games like GTA 5 and in songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”

Consequently, since rape culture is present in our society, it is safe to assume that people start normalizing sexual violence against women. Thus, judges minimize the gravity of sexual assaults and the victims receive poor treatment from witnesses.

What you’re doing is absolutely great, we really need more people to support this cause since there is a large amount of cases surrounding sexual assaults. There is no justice whatsoever in what’s happening these days, all these cases are being turned down are just making the idea of rape culture grow bigger and bigger. Rape culture is a set of beliefs which encourages the violence against women and male sexual aggression. Many women are currently suffering from sexual abuse and no one is standing up to it, if the judges in court are not reacting and saying things like “vigorous or creative enough in trying to stop the assault” then it will only get worse from here and people will try to assault others even more. Also, imagine women of color trying to stand up for themselves at court and being shut down, society will never be able to improve because of this. So we really need more people to join these organizations to help women reach out and stand up for themselves.

Here is an article that talks about how the victims are being blamed for rape instead of the rapists
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/nov/21/police-...

What you’re doing is absolutely great, we really need more people to support this cause since there is a large amount of cases surrounding sexual assaults. There is no justice whatsoever in what’s happening these days, all these cases are being turned down are just making the idea of rape culture grow bigger and bigger. Rape culture is a set of beliefs which encourages the violence against women and male sexual aggression. Many women are currently suffering from sexual abuse and no one is standing up to it, if the judges in court are not reacting and saying things like “vigorous or creative enough in trying to stop the assault” then it will only get worse from here and people will try to assault others even more. Also, imagine women of color trying to stand up for themselves at court and being shut down, society will never be able to improve because of this. So we really need more people to join these organizations to help women reach out and stand up for themselves.

Here is an article that talks about how the victims are being blamed for rape instead of the rapists
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/nov/21/police-...

I find this article can be strongly related to the rape culture. The articles shows different cases of misconduct about women in Canadian courts. Rape culture links rape and sexual violence to the society. I realize that men in our society don’t pay much attention to the rape problems. I feel angry to see the judge said to a victim of sexual violence: “ why don't you keep your knees together?” They even try to shirk the cause of sexual assault to women. It reminds me that the Second-Wave Feminists were right about arguing that rape culture is real. Women usually face different kinds of violence and racism against them, and they often experience inequality when they fight for their rights. People should encourage women to speak out and give attention to the women who have been through unfair judgement. The writer volunteers in the women’s center of Montreal. She wants to give help to those women who are alone when they seek for the rights due them. I go along with her actions since it will rise more attention on women victims in the society. The actions can be related to feminism also because it helps strive for women rights.

This is a link which I think it kind of helps women to speak out and fight for their rights. https://www.one.org/us/2015/11/25/how-safecity-is-helping-women-and-girl...

About the author

Naomie Tat currently studies Digital Arts & New Media (2D & 3D Animation) at Champlain College Saint-Lambert. She is a Montreal-born International Baccalaureate program high school graduate.