A scary statistic on sexual assault in Canada

Nineteen percent of Canadians believe a woman encouraged sexual assault when she was drunk. This needs to change.

Woman in silver heels standing in front of men in black dress shoes

Photo, Corbis.

Women around the world are not receiving sufficient aid or support when it comes to protection from sexual assault and violence. One in 14 women are sexually assaulted by someone other than their partner, according to a recent study into sexual violence discussed in the Globe and Mail.

In Canada and the U.S., 13 percent of women 15 and over report being sexually assaulted — that’s significantly higher than the global average of 7.2 percent.

The research was conducted jointly by academics from the South African Medical Research Council in Cape Town, the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study’s findings, which were published in the medical journal The Lancet, were drawn from data taken from 56 countries spanning more than a decade.

“Sexual violence is a common experience for women worldwide,” said the study’s co-author, Naeemah Abrahams. “In some regions, it’s endemic.”

The worst offenders, internationally, include the Democratic Republic of Congo (with a sexual assault average of 21 per cent), Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe (17.4 percent) and New Zealand and Australia (16.4 percent).

Turkey (4.5 percent) and India and Bangladesh (3.3 percent) had the lowest sexual assault rate.

As the Globe and Mail’s Gayle Macdonald points out, however, these rates are believed to be a small reflection of the problem as many assaults go unreported.

Abrahams is calling for governments to get tougher on how they compile data related to sexual assault and violence, specifically information related to the kinds of people who perpetrate these crimes. These figures, she argues, will help not only in the creation of better and more useful services that are offered to victims, but also in the formation of more effective prevention policies.

Some of those prevention policies may include increasing public awareness. Macdonald cites one troubling statistic that suggests, “19 percent of Canadians believe a woman encouraged or provoked sexual assault when she was drunk, while 11 percent believe she encouraged or provoked sexual assault by wearing a short skirt.”

With such public attitudes in mind, it’s perhaps no mystery why investigating the real causes behind such crimes is low on the public agenda. Here’s hoping that changes. And soon.