TO Police Advice:Don’t want to be Assaulted? Don’t Wear Your School Uniform on Transit
So the Toronto Police are back at it again, they are giving women bad advice on how to not be sexually assaulted. I can’t help but wonder if they learned nothing from the demonstrations that took place in Toronto last April in regards to Victim Blaming.
Apparently there is an issue with a pervert who is looking up young women’s skirts on Toronto Transit, specifically targeting students from a near by private school. The school principle passed on some advice to students, via email, from the investigating officer from the Toronto Police department. That advice? tell them not to wear their school uniforms, the skirts, on public transit. If they had,for example, jeans or sweatpants on, it wouldn’t be an issue.
Once again we have this idea that if the victim would just do more to prevent the crime it never would have happened in the first place. No one stops to think to themselves that perhaps it never would have happened if there had been no pervert to begin with. Or perhaps there would be no pervert if we actually started to target young men and inform them that this type of behaviour is not acceptable. But what am I thinking? Boys will be boys, right?
These are reinforcing the belief in young women that they are provoking sexual assault by wearing certain types of clothing.
I don’t live in Toronto, I live in Calgary and I take our transit 3 times a week. And I hate taking transit in the early mornings when the trains are pact tight. I particularly find it uncomfortable when I find myself on one of the older trains that aren’t designed for standing room. At least once a week someone either: makes a comment to me about my body, or touches me when it’s crowded in a clearly inappropriate manner. In one instance last year I caught a guy taking a picture of my legs whilst I was standing on the train. In addition to this I hear stories everyday from someone about how something inappropriate has happened to them while they were taking transit.
This is in no way the fault of Calgary Transit and in every way the fault of main stream culture. How do we get across the message that looking up people’s skirts, taking pictures of them, touching them, or doing anything to them without their consent, is not OK? To me it seems just logical, if person A doesn’t want to be touched person B should keep their hands to themselves.
The point is that sexual assault or harassment has nothing to do with what women are wearing and everything to do with the pervert. I am beyond tired with this false belief that if you wear a skirt, or go out drinking, or walk down a dark street alone, or do any other ‘risky’ behaviour, that this puts you more at risk for sexual assault. Women of all shapes, sizes, and situations are sexually assaulted everyday. One study sites that 21% of women who were abused by a partner were pregnant when they were abused. I invite you to please explain to me how a pregnant women was asking for it, or brought on that abuse herself? The same study says that 40% of women with disabilities have reported being raped or assaulted. Again I would please like someone to explain to me how they brought on their own assaults?
I am not saying that there are no preventative steps women can take to protect themselves, but I am not sure why we always focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator. I am not sure why better advice was not given to the young school aged women who are being harassed on the bus. For example, pulling out your cell phone and calling police, informing the bus driver what is going on, public shaming “hey dude in blue hat, could you please stop looking up my skirt? That would be fantastic, thanks”, as a bystander you could ask the victim if they alright, do they need help? Simply telling young women to not wear skirts is counterproductive.
If people want to talk about preventative measures women can take tell them: to not wear both earbuds when walking alone, limit chatting on your cell well walking, be aware of your environment. But to tell them that wearing jeans instead of a skirt will keep them safe is just plain dumb.
In response to this story, according to the above link, Constable Wendy Drummond said that the school principal did not relay the officers words correctly. She says that the advice to women was that they should: travel in pairs, use panic buttons on the subway, do not discuss their travel plans in public, and that both sexes should not wear their school uniforms in public. But she apparently did not deny that the officer had remarked that if the girls had been in jeans it never would have happened.
Even if this is how it did in fact go down it doesn’t matter. In either context the officers advice sucks, and so does the principles. Don’t talk about your travel plans in public? What is that? Is the world so scary that we can’t even talk to our friends about plans? It still also places the onus on the victim. The idea that i can and should be doing more to prevent myself from getting raped.
Nor the principle or the police officer should be perptuating victim blaming ideology to young women, it’s pretty disgusting.