FREDERICTON(CUP) — Last week, waiting for the bus, my friend Katherine was joined at the bus stop by two perverts wearing overalls who made sexually aggressive comments about her clothing. Now you’re probably thinking two things: One, isn’t “perverts wearing overalls” a bit redundant? and two, it is unfair that I use this platform, in a university-funded publication, to air my personal grievances. If you are indeed thinking these things, you’re right on both accounts. I could have just said “two people wearing overalls” and you would have put two and two together. It is also immature of me to use this column as just a soapbox upon which to host my own bitch-parade.
I only wish, however, that this problem was only limited to myself and Katherine. One of the first things my partner and I noticed when we moved here was the amount of yokels yelling things at her from cars. And we used to live in East Vancouver, for the love of all that is holy!
Fredericton has the third-highest rate of sexual assault in the country. Fredericton has the third-highest rate of sexual assault in the country. No, repeating that sentence wasn’t an editorial mistake; it is so important that I thought it needed to be written twice. If the editorial board would allow it, I’d just write that sentence for the rest of this article. According to Maclean’s magazine, this city’s sexual assault rate is 88 per cent higher than the national average. Even more so, the national average, sitting at about 65 assaults per 100,000 people, is nothing to write home about to begin with. Fredericton has the third-highest rate of sexual assault in the country.
The only two cities that are above Fredericton are our neighbours in Saint John in first place and Belleville, Ont., in second place. This report was conducted by Maclean’s near the beginning of 2012. Furthermore, according to the 2011 Fredericton Police Force Statistical Crime Report, the sexual assault rate had increased by 11.5 per cent from 2010.
By no means am I confusing verbal assault with sexual assault. The two, however, are closely intertwined. Katherine told the overalled men to F-off, and later on she told me that she was embarrassed that she had yelled on the bus. I can see where she was coming from, and to me, that is the worst part of the story. That at the end of it all, it was not the two knuckle-draggers that were made to feel like the mouth-breathers they are, but rather that the victim felt poorly.
When an individual is publicly objectified and nobody else in the vicinity says anything, we are enabling a culture where pejorative sexual statements are not condemned. Even worse than that, that silence fosters a culture where sexual aggression is accepted as the norm.
Fredericton has the third-highest rate of sexual assault in the country. That fact sure puts our famous maritime hospitality in a new light.
When somebody says something sexually aggressive towards another individual, two things take place; the person at whom the comment is directed is the subject of an unsolicited attack on their self-worth, and the exchange reflects the levels of sexual aggression our society perceives as acceptable. Yes — it is our society as a whole that is reflected. Don’t give me any of that “don’t judge a basket of bad apples by the cover of their books,” or whatever the hell that saying is. It is our entire society that is reflected because when we as bystanders do not say anything, we become complicit in the insult; we become the studio audience. Haven’t we all read The Three Musketeers by now? Truth be told, I still haven’t read the book either but we should all be familiar with the “all for one and one for all” concept by now.
Fredericton has the third-highest rate of sexual assault in the country. You’d think with a church on every other block we’d at least get the “keep your hands to yourself” rule correct.
The last time I yelled “Nice ass!” to someone, it was in Southern Alberta at some guy who was walking his horse in the passing lane of a highway. I make no apologies for that because it was a hilarious pun and what he was doing was (I’m pretty sure) illegal. It was a form of vigilante comedy, if you will. But unless there is livestock involved, keep your comments to yourself. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing just like it doesn’t matter that you’re wearing overalls. And if somebody yells a sexually offensive comment at another individual, it is all of our responsibility to tell that troglodyte to go make some toast in a bathtub.
Fredericton has the third-highest rate of sexual assault in the country. The province lags decades behind the country in literacy, but THIS is where we choose to make up for it.
In order to force a downward curve in the appalling rate of sexual assaults in this city and province, we need to adopt a culture of zero-tolerance for sexual harassment as a whole––whether that harassment is verbal or physical.
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