I started writing an editorial about the #MeToo campaign this week. By the time I was done with it, I wasn’t happy with it and I discussed with some of the women I know. This is not my idea:
We need to decriminalize most forms of sexual assault.
Sexual assault and harassment have been big issues circling the media, and especially social media for a little while now.
It started with Harvey Weinstein, one of the biggest names in American film producing, facing allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
Next came a social media campaign with the hashtag #MeToo, where especially women, but some men as well, would let the world or their friends and family, depending on their privacy settings, know that they too had been the victims of sexual assault or harassment.
The goal of which was to raise awareness for how prevalent these things are in our society.
For me personally, the #MeToo campaign doesn’t convince me there’s a problem with sexual assault. Psychologically speaking, our brains are wired to pick up patterns and we often deceive ourselves in the process. Personally, I’m much more convinced by statistics.
According to Statistics Canada, “most incidents of sexual assault are not reported to the police.”
The rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014 was 22 per 1,000 population, which with a population of roughly 36 million would put the number of sexual assaults somewhere around 792,000, which is harshly contrasted with the 21,014 sexual assaults in 2016 reported in the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey. It’s a survey which is comprised of crimes that have come to the attention of police and have been substantiated.
The discrepancy between those two numbers strongly suggests there is, in fact, a problem.
Currently, unlike what we’ve seen in the past, allegations of sexual misconduct against public figures are having some impact, resulting in Harvey Weinstein being fired and most recently House of Cards being suspended following an allegation against Kevin Spacey. All this does is give sexual assault victims the impression that something has changed when legally nothing has.
Ultimately, any solution should not be in the court of social media and public opinion, but rather one founded in our legal systems even if it’s social pressure that helps us get there.
Our legal system is founded on the principle that any conviction should be beyond a reasonable doubt. Past cases have proven that achieving this is nearly impossible in a large portion of sexual assault cases where it’s one person’s word against another’s. If the majority of sexual assault cases were conducted in civil court, where the burden of proof is lower, victims would have a much better chance at getting closure, as well as sending a message to perpetrators. I’d be happy with other suggestions but without some sort of legal change, all of this public attention is going to amount to very little for the average sexual assault victim.