Prevention is first step

About a month ago now, the Globe and Mail published an investigation into the reporting of sexual assaults to police across Canada.

The 20-month investigation found an abysmal rate of one in five claims being dismissed as baseless, resulting in little to no further investigation from police.

It highlighted something that experts have known for years: the relationship between public safety and citizens reporting to institutions that are to be held accountable for it remains problematic.

Despite years of efforts to make the reporting process for sexual assault more effective and sensitive toward accusers, time and time again we hear stories detailing the failure of the current system. These instances only remind us that our current handling is a work in progress.

But on university campuses, it’s crucial we acknowledge the role students play. Or rather, the treatment of their own safety as a joking matter.

The first step in the ever-growing problem of sexual assault involves receiving unwanted attention. This does not mean, however, that the one to blame is the accuser – for what they wore, the time they were out, or what their actions were. These things should never matter.

Where we can find a collective solution is in abandoning the mentality of what some call body and slut-shaming, in favour of zero tolerance of a “boys will be boys” mantra.

We acknowledge that gender-based violence is not the only thing worth talking about.

But in honour of International Women’s Day this week, we are shining a light on the significance of everybody taking safety seriously – and recognizing that safety concerns can extend even into professional environments.

Ryersonian reporter Alexandria Pankratz tackles the topic this week in a feature as she surveys different workplaces that may be promoting ideas that body-shame young women.

Dismissing such instances as humourous is harmful, and refuses to acknowledge that safety, both on and off campus, is an intersectional issue. There must be efforts to educate young men and promote respect toward women.

Toronto is a lively city, yes, with lively people and a diverse group living in close quarters.

There are tips that students, especially young women, are given by their elders and mothers about how to remain safe in the city.

While helpful, they are not the ultimate and permanent solution – promoting respect for women is.

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