SASC Quoted – Facing sexual assault in the media

Our Public Education Coordinator spoke with Kiera Obbard at The Fulcrum on the serious issue of how our media covers cases of sexual assaults.

According to Yamikani Msosa, a public education coordinator and support worker at Ottawa’s Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), the first step toward media coverage is being able to report the assault.

“More often than not, it’s the police who send out a press release, and then the media picks up on it based on something that was reported,” she said. “I think the discrepancy lies in the ones that were able to go to the police and be believed and not discredited, because we can’t take out the factor that issues of marginalization do play a role in a survivor’s credibility.”

If a woman reports her attack to the police and if her case isn’t classified as unfounded, the police may issue a news release informing the media and the public about the incident. Alternatively, an agency such as the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) or Hollaback! Ottawa — a movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology — can report on a woman’s behalf.

Msosa said the representation of sexual assault in the media doesn’t depict the reality of sexual assault in Canada, but instead uses a stereotypical “rape narrative” that can be harmful to the public’s understanding of what sexual assault actually is.

“Within the media, there’s a narrative of ‘stranger danger,’” she said. “The problem with that, of course, is that it happens everywhere, anywhere, and at any time. That’s not to say that no one is safe, but it is to say that the prevalence of sexual assault in Ottawa, and in society, is not just a couple of incidents. If we start to picture it as 100 incidents of sexual assault in a day, then that would change the way that we think when we do see the media coverage around these experiences.”

The term “stranger danger” refers to the potential risk posed by unknown persons and, in the context of sexual assault, often focuses on the danger that these persons pose to women when out alone late at night or in isolated places. Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback! Ottawa, said the problem with this narrative is that it glosses over the majority of sexual assault experiences.

“In Canada, 80 to 95 per cent of people are assaulted by someone they know, in their own home, or on a campus,” she said. “Playing up stranger danger is actually re-victimizing and putting women in harm’s way, because they’re telling themselves, ‘What my partner just did to me was not rape because rape is when I’m attacked in the park walking home from work.’

You can read the full article here!

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