Report: Street harassment in Ottawa is prevalent and under reported

As site director of Hollaback! Ottawa, I've been busy over the past few months researching street harassment in Ottawa. We held an open forum in May and created a subsequent survey and the result is a report that was just released this morning.

What's interesting is that the stats are horrible and therefore in line with the national average. Namely, 97% of respondents experienced at least one incident of street harassment in the past year, 44% had experienced an incident on transit in the past year and 90% of us didn't report it.

You can access the full report here.

I'm really happy with it and truly honoured that so many people felt comfortable sharing their story with us. I'm hopeful that it will serve as a launching point for an overdue community-wide discussion on the issue. Fingers crossed!

Unmasking the truth

I am really, really pissed off about Bill C-309.

I wrote an Op/Ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen citing exactly why. Check it out.

Still not convinced that it's a bill that has nothing to do with hockey riots and everything to do with crushing civil liberties? Then read this piece by Marni Soupcoff or this piece by Dana Stuster.

If you still don't agree with me, then I have no idea what to tell you.

Consequences of rape culture

I believe very strongly in public education and prevention work, particularly in the context of sexual violence. What I've learned in my decade or so of doing this work is that most people are completely unaware of the reality of sexual violence. Yes, there are people who know that rape culture exists and are totally fine with the status quo, but I firmly believe that most people have no damn idea how bad things are.

It doesn't help that many of us who do this work speak about the issue from a strictly theoretical standpoint. Want to make things real for people? Make it tangible.

This became abundantly clear to me when I heard Lindy West's response to the various rape threats she received for speaking out about rape jokes. Lindy is all kinds of badass for enduring this crap. (MAJOR trigger warning for this link. Trolls did not hold back)

After watching Lindy go through the various rape threats she received, I decided to do my own exercise in 'keeping it real'.

I gave myself 5 minutes to write up as many examples as I could about the impact of rape culture on my life. It wasn't hard.

Think rape culture is some abstract concept with no relevance to womyn's lives? Think again, Buster.

I drive a classic car. Here's how to talk to me about it without being a giant jackass

After a decade of ownership, trust me, I get it. My car is hilarious, unique and old. But with summer here and therefore, my baby out of storage and on the streets, I feel it is time to lay down some ground rules once and for all.

Since I cannot speak directly to the people who honk, stare, wave, gesture, etc. to me when I'm driving, I will state it here.

How to interact with a womyn who drives a classic car: 

The courage to trust womyn

It is a sign of a very sick society when the word 'courage' is used to describe a physician practicing medicine in the suburbs of Canada. But alas, nobody wore that badge more in this country than Dr Henry Morgentaler.

Morgentaler died yesterday at the ripe old age of 90, peacefully surrounded by his family and friends.

The man survived the Holocaust, came to Canada and faced rampant anti-Semitism. He was a physician and could have spent the rest of his life quietly practicing medicine in the suburbs of Montreal, raising a family and doing his thing. But instead, he was haunted by the amount of womyn who came to him seeking abortions. And the rest, as they say, is history. (For more details about Henry Morgentaler's life, check out this lengthy piece from the Globe&Mail)

I wish the battle for legal access to abortion was a historical one; something we would teach our children about and happily see them shake their head in confusion. But alas, we're still here, fighting the same damn fight we have for generations.

And the timing of Henry's death is haunting me.

The politics of wearing a yellow manteau

I have a thing for colour. I have been wearing bold colours for as long as I can remember. In fact, I distinctly remember how cool I felt on my first day of grade 6 when I showed wearing head-to-toe tie-dye. Damn, I was cool.

I have a special affinity for yellow (duh!) and may or may not own a dozen yellow coats, not to mention boots, dresses, shirts, skirts, pants, purses, accessories, you name it.

I want ALL of the yellow


Now that 'colour blocking' is an official trend, I feel a little less like a drunk clown, but I still 'stick out'. And it's that sticking out element of my wardrobe that has gotten me thinking about the politics of womyn's clothing.

Jaded but determined

When I was in the 6th grade, I had to write an essay on how I pictured my future. I wish I was kidding when I say that I wanted to be a famous author living alone with 10 cats.

Translation? I was both strange and in love with writing. I wrote short stories, poems, mock newspaper articles, you name it. I wasn't great, but I was prolific.

Once I grew up enough to be realistic about the pipedream that is wanting to be a 'famous author', I settled on journalism. I wanted to talk to people and tell their stories. On days when I felt particularly ambitious, I dreamed of being the next Oprah.

I originally went to university for journalism (Or J-School, as the cool kids call it) but fell in love with Canadian Studies and Women's Studies. Things looped back around, though, as I began my Master's in Canadian Studies in 2007.

And now, I'm stuck.

Notice how I began my MA in 2007 and I'm still not done? Ugh. What a fucking embarrassment, right? I know.

Now, I started the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre in 2007, too and my mother got sick and I got sick and had surgery and I had to work full time, then I got laid off, then worked full time again and on and on and on.

Am I busy? Heck yes.

Did the world deal me some shitty cards? Yup.

But another huge factor in this is how disillusioned I am with academia.

Rape is cancer

May is sexual assault awareness month. It’s April in the US, which seems odd, but whatever… In any case, it’s the time of the year when we’re supposed to be raising awareness about sexual assault.

 What the hell does that even mean?

 Does it mean dispelling the myths of all the bullshit ‘prevention tips’? Yes.

 Does it mean targeting boys and men to not only stop raping people but calling out other dudes who do? Yes.

Does it mean teaching everybody and anybody how to set the bar higher for society? Yes.

As a sexual assault support worker and an anti-violence activist, my views on the matter are clearly more ‘radical’ than others. Although I speak and work in many different forums that require different techniques and approaches, the truth is that all I really want to do is RAGE. Rage, rage, rage against the statistics, the bullshit policies and the apathy that I see around me every day.

It’s not healthy or wise to spend each moment of everyday telling people “Every 17 minutes in Ontario, a womyn is raped BUT that also means that every 17 minutes, a man is raping someone”. It doesn’t exactly make for great chit chat.

But what I really want to do and the message I want people to absorb is that rape is cancer.

Yes, rape is cancer. (Hear me out...)
 

It's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, yo!

Think rape culture sucks? So do I.

Think that survivors/victims of sexual violence deserve better? So do I.

Want to make a difference? You can!

Refuse to be silenced. Speak out when you see people making apologies for rape culture. Don't fall into the trap of referring to sexual violence as 'bullying' and don't let others get away with depoliticizing sexual violence, either.

Don't be an idle bystander. When you see sexual violence, do something about it.

Every day this month, Draw-the-line.ca's campaign will be throwing out a scenario of sexual violence and asking people where they would draw the line. Follow them on Twitter and on Facebook and show where you would draw the line. If you're on Twitter, tweet your answer with the hashtag #WDTL (Where to draw the line)

Here's today's question:

On the website right now, 58% of people would leave their friend behind. This is actually a huge improvement from just a few days ago when 75% of people would leave their friend. Clearly, there remains a lot of work to be done.

 

An open letter to victims of sexual assault

[This is kind of obvious, but trigger warning for discussions of sexual assault]

Dear Jane Does,

I hope this finds you well. Sadly, it probably doesn't. What a terrible few weeks, huh? Ugh. So horrible.

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