My home is not safe for women

By now, all of us are aware of the tragic circumstances of Rehtaeh Parsons’ rape, torment, and suicide. I don’t need to provide the details of what happened to her. To be honest, and perhaps selfishly so, I know I can’t bear to write about it.

Because this isn’t the first time we have written about the suffering of a young girl, victimized by the very rape culture we are subjected to daily. We do this on what seems like a weekly basis: another teenage girl, another heartbreaking story, another sad ending.

So as we have done in the past – with Amanda Todd in British Columbia – and as we do now with Audrie Pott in California, we grieve. We grieve for the life of a girl who never really had a chance to live. We pain for her family; bewildered by what they had to go through and offering them our sympathy. We take comfort that now, maybe….just maybe… justice will prevail. That, for Rehtaeh, the Canadian system will do as it is supposed to do.

Rehtaeh Parsons died Sunday, nearly 18 months after an alleged rape by four high school boys. (Facebook)

Rehtaeh Parsons died Sunday, nearly 18 months after an alleged rape by four high school boys. (Facebook)

I live where, sadly, Rehtaeh used to lived. Not in Nova Scotia per say, but in New Brunswick – its neighboring province. We, including Prince Edward Island, make up the Maritime Provinces of Canada; full of kind and compassionate people, surrounded by wild and unscathed beauty, with a population of only about 2 million.

But despite all the raw grandeur and the tight-knit communities of our region remains a very stark reality: a situation like Rehtaeh’s is not uncommon.

1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. But in the Maritimes, the rates of violence are higher than the already staggering average – violence against women is among the highest in the country and resources to help are frighteningly limited.

In Fredericton, New Brunswick, where I currently live, I have an 88% higher chance  of being sexually assaulted than in the rest of the country. Third highest in the country. The first? Saint John, New Brunswick (an approximate 1.5 hour drive from Fredericton), where women have a 132% higher than average chance of being sexually assault.

Yet, knowing that less than 1 in 10 sexual assaults that occur in Canada are actually reported, lower than any other violent crime, how many more acts of sexual violence are occurring in the Maritimes – my home – without us knowing? How many more women around me are suffering in silence?

The terrifying question remains: How worse off are we?

Because this is what the culture of rape is all about: isolating women, victimizing women, shaming women. It tells us that, for things to get better, we must change. It tells us that the growing rates of sexual assault are our fault.

Just as Rehtaeh continues to be blamed in the form of posters for support of the boys who assaulted her, all women are blamed for the sexual violence that is committed against us.

But the reality is it is society who is to blame.

And society limits our sources of support.

In fact, rather than making services more accessible, and rather than providing funding to the limited services that are already available to us, New Brunswick politicians suggest creating ‘women only’ parking spots. It’s laughable, except that the neglect of women throughout the Maritime provinces is no laughing matter.

We are, as Alexandra at Feministing so poignantly said, “in a state of emergency”. The Maritime Provinces have been stuck in this ‘state’ for quite some time, and I for one have had enough.

I am tired of being scared in my home, and I am tired of being blamed for feeling the way I do.

What we have learned from this horrible situation is that to achieve justice for all of us – whether we live in the Maritimes, throughout Canada, or anywhere else in the world –we must get angry, we must demand change as did after hearing about Rehtaeh.

So, to the men and women of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island: be concerned, get angry, start acting. It’s time for change. Please – start conversations in your communities, form rallies, write letters. It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Let’s make the most of it.

For assistance in the Maritime Provinces:

In New Brunswick

In Nova Scotia

In Prince Edward Island



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  • 28 year old Southern Californian, male here.

    Your post is coherent, well-written, succinct, concise, accurate and informative.

    I am very liberal, progressive, pro-women, pro-choice (anti-gun, anti-religion), etc.

    (And here comes the ever ubiquitous) “But”, I think a lot of the violence which men display toward and against women, has to do with society’s systemic sexual oppression of men.

    If you strip away the facade of society and analyze a human male as he naturally exists, he has a very basic set of physiological instructions, and one of the most compelling instructions in his body and mind is to mate with human women.

    In society, we have oppressed man’s natural instinct and told him that he must “settle down” with one female through the religious institution of marriage and mustn’t fornicate with other women.

    In popular culture, men are heroic if they do sleep with multiple partners, but this sexual idealism is generally frowned upon in most major societal venues, such as work, school or family, etc. For example, if a man sleeps with multiple women in a short period of time, would he be accepted in telling of his forays to his workmates, teachers, schoolmates or family members at large? Perhaps in a very limited audience, but not at wide. Whereas in the case of a married man, it is implied and accepted that he has sex with his sole partner.

    And what of a man who has trouble finding a wife, or a monogamous relationship of some kind? Here is a man, with all the testosterone and passion and aggression that accompanies it, who has no avenue to release his sexual frustrations naturally. He is compelled to rape, or in some occasions, kill. His views and thoughts become distorted over time.

    In nature, man takes a woman, he does not court her. In society, it’s called “rape”, but in nature it’s called “mating”.

    Society and perception is our problem.

    OK, we lived in a civilized society, so “taking a woman” is not deemed acceptable. I agree. So rape is abhorrent (if not natural) so we must train and conform our brains to work differently in this society.

    You cannot reverse engineer a man’s brain to not desire sex, or even to desire it less frequently or less vigorously. So what instead you must do is re-work society to allow for a healthy expression of man’s sexual needs.

    Legalize prostitution, outlaw marriage (and thereby de-sensitize the world of polyamory) and abolish all religion (and the implied sexual standards contained therein).

    We (men) are told to accept that women can wear next to nothing on the street and we must not touch her. Most men can conform to this standard, but some cannot. In nature, a naked woman is looking for a mate, she is practically “in heat”, and even in modern society she is literally “teasing” men. She may not be “asking for it”, but she is hitting at a very primitive part of man’s brain. The man becomes aroused and may not have an outlet to free himself of this arousal. Arousal becomes repressed frustration.

    These are just my opinions, some may ardently disagree with me entirely, or with certain areas. That’s fine, I understand my views are extreme. But violence against women is NOT ACCEPTABLE, and doing nothing just allows for this epidemic to continue. Whereas many blame “man” for his misdoings, I blame society for compelling him toward evil and society must be changed to fix it.

    • teapea

      Nathan Langfold, I would just call you a rape apologist, but your comment sounds so delusional that I suspect you are just a very confused, politically and historically naive 14 year old.

      This ‘evil society’ you blame is not an abstract concept. You think all men have this supposedly ‘natural instinct’ for multiple partners, yet make up half of the population and hold the majority of the political power, and the majority of societies in recent history have been monogamous, and some of the most patriarchal have often been polygamous (men could have multiple wives but NOT the reverse), and women we basically considered chattel and those who were unmarried were prostituted (reference: ANCIENT GREECE).

      When essentialists like you make these type of statements reducing male violence and misogyny to biology, you realize that you in fact justify the idea of female supremacy that you are so afraid of – if men don’t have the ability to overcome the failings of their own biology to behave in a socially just manner, then why shouldn’t women – who supposedly aren’t driven by instinct to commit violent invasions of others bodies despite the presence of extensive grey matter in brains – just lock you all up in prisons to rape each other and drown in your own testosterone?

      Your sentiments that biology = destiny actually are actually very much contrary to the marxist/radical left and feminism (you might want to read up on marxist and feminist opposition to sociobiology, for example), and are rooted in religion and conservatism, so you are far from progressive. Not to mention much of the so called science on gender essentialism is pop-psych rubbish and considered such by many scientists (check out Cordelia Fine’s book ‘Delusions of Gender’), and Darwin himself even stated that his theories were never intended to explain inequality in human societies. Not to mention, in every man, there is half a woman. Where do you reckon men get their X chromosomes, not to mention one of every other set of chromosome from?