Awareness and Remembrance, In the News

The Accounting of Sexual Violence: How many women does it take to make a report of sexual assault stick?

January 02, 2018

Margaret MacPhersonmargaret macpherson photo

Margaret is a Research Associate with CREVAWC at Western University. She has been a champion for the Neighbours, Friends and Families program since 2005.

In the U.S we see that nineteen is not enough to make it stick to a president, even when he boasts about it on camera. Nine is not enough to make it stick to an Alabama judge running for senator, even though a number of the women were young teens at the time. Eight is enough to topple a Minnesota senator holding office, with offenses described as groping and unwanted kissing. In a win-lose world, 19 + 9 testimonies does not equal 2 men down in sexual harassment accounting. Senator Franken did resign, but only after the numbers defeated him. In his case, 8 equals 1.

‘Due process’ in the legal system uses a similar accounting system. One woman’s account does not equal one man’s account. Trans and non-binary victims same same; no equivalence and even higher rates of sexual violence. Due process is unequivocally important but, in Canada, due process has given us thirty-three reports, six prosecutions and three convictions for every thousand sexual assaults.[1] Last year in Ontario we saw that three women weren’t enough to get to ‘guilty’ in the courts with a popular radio host. It still takes a lot of ‘believable’ women to equal one man, even when his character is questionable.

Given the math, why would any woman come forward? And yet they do. They come because they want justice, human rights, accountability, healing and possibly peace of mind. In the wild seas of controversy, they hold tight to the possibility of a just society. For women, trans, non-binary folks, and yes men, the journey to justice is one of intense and invasive public scrutiny, harsh often condemning judgement and even death threats from the trolls who are vigilant 24-7, protecting and patrolling the crumbling bastion of unapologetic hetero male entitlement.

woman holding metoo sign

#metoo gave voice to 1.7M people in 85 countries who have experienced sexual violence.[2] Their stories show incredible heart and conviction. And hope – their stories give us hope.