And law enforcement follows….
Recently here in Edmonton, a ‘hospitality promoter’ who worked with local clubs and bars was recently charged with numerous sexual assaults. While working with these clubs, he’d set his sites on single (and probably intoxicated) women and invite them to ‘after parties’ at a nearby residence where the crimes took place. It was probably not too long ago that this sort of behaviour (from a charming, casanova-type character) wouldn’t have raised many red flags. And if it was brought to someone’s attention, the situation would have been downplayed, ignored, or the victim blamed for being intoxicated …then sent home and made to feel guilty about what they did or didn’t do to deserve the unwanted sexual encounter. There wouldn’t have been anything seriously wrong with the whole thing ….and yet of course there was.
Something similar happened in Australia recently as well; two guys who worked as pick-up artists for Real Social Dynamics brought home and ‘had sex’ with various drunken women. Again, in the past, these would have been good-timing boys out for a night of drunken fun, and the women they victimized labelled as promiscuous party-girls who had it coming for being ‘slutty’ and/or reckless with their alcohol. But that would be the past …and in the present though, we see the pick-up artists blogged about the event and the victim found it online …the result was an 8 year sentence for rape. Yes indeed, times change.
Law enforcement has a hard time with the complete picture though, especially when it comes to many of the private ‘he said she said’ scenarios like the assults mentioned. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine in the EPS about how his hands are usually tied when it comes to domestic violence situations; how they know there’s a problem, but because they’re not always up on the details/history of the people involved, they’re left to only treat what they show up to find. They apply a bandaid ….but don’t really address the wound. But change does come, and in countries worldwide we see training programs updated to reflect new guidelines that recognize abuses that spawn situations that really aren’t so black and white, and as well equipping officers with the tools they need to help move beyond what they encounter after ‘just arriving on the scene’. Take Manchester England for example, and their attempts to reighn in the damages from the hidden crime of coercive control.
In Manchester, the GMP have unveiled a ‘SCRATCHing Beneath The Surface‘ campaign in an attempt to better deal with the domestic violence incidents they typically respond to. They recognize that physical violence is usually the result of coercive and controlling behaviours, and they recognize as well that this physical violence is, for the most part, all the Police are able to deal with at times. The entire buildup to the incident itself gets lost in the ‘he said she said’ realm of things, which can be next to impossible for officers to get an informed and proper grasp of. New legislation however, enables them to mine deeper into the roots of domestic violence….
“There has long been a call for the law to adapt and acknowledge that psychological exploitation in a relationship can be as damaging as physical abuse. Now that the new legislation has come in, our work as a force also needs to develop. […] We have already trained over 500 front line officers to deal with reports of this nature and this work will continue over the coming months. […] Victims of coercive and controlling behaviour may not see themselves as a victim, remaining trapped in a cycle of abuse ….this new law and awareness raising campaign will empower people to take a hard look at their relationship and come forward, reassured that there is protection, help and support available.“
The Crown Prosecution Services in the UK are prosecuting more rape, domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse cases than they have ever before. The increase in prosecutions are not just due to efforts in educating people about new laws, but also through raising awareness about abuse that wouldn’t have been on most peoples’ radar in the not so distant past. As well, Polly Neate from Woman’s Aid notes; “Survivors of domestic abuse are starting to have more confidence in the criminal justice system, which is why we are seeing another rise in the volume of prosecutions and convictions. However, we know that much more work is still needed, particularly in understanding of the nature and impact of coercive control, right across the criminal justice system.” More work is needed, and these new laws and awareness techniques are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s required in dealing with and understanding something so pervasive and commonplace in many cultures.
Progress is slow but steady, and many of those ‘he said she said’ scenarios are getting the spotlight they deserve in this routinely patriarchal and misogynistic society that we’ve all grown accustomed to. What used to be swept under the carpet now sees the light of day thanks to the many organizations that provide support for women and/or empower them to speak up when they feel they’ve been mistreated. The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services is one such agency, and is currently in the second year of its #ibelieveyou campaign. The popular hashtag is used across many Alberta campuses, reaching out to post-secondary students who, as a class, are some of the most susceptible to sexual assaults. And not just from other students either ….sadly.
Laws do keep pace with needs though, and our current society, in my estimation, is sorely inept in terms of equality between women and men ….that is to say, we’ve got many needs to yet address. We’re great at giving lip service to the concerns raised, but because much of law enforcement (not to mention politics, business, military etc.) is, in its upper echelons, male dominated and abusive itself, (RCMP apology here) we don’t truly have an appreciation of the harms faced by women from the men in their workplaces, communities and lives at large. Times change though, and law enforcement follows ….and I know that through this, women will eventually garner the tools necessary to rise and to rightfully assume positions themselves in these influential roles. Only then, I feel, will we see an end to the abuses that stem from such inequalities.