Politicians stand against rape culture, step forward as victims

Emotional debate at Union of B.C. Municipalities on how to change 'pervasive' attitudes about women

Municipal politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention debate how to erase rape culture in society.

Municipal politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention debate how to erase rape culture in society.

The pervasiveness of rape culture in society became a topic of emotional debate Thursday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where no fewer than four municipal politicians stepped forward to stay they’d been raped in the past.

Cariboo Regional District director Margo Wagner said she did not report being raped 43 years ago because of the culture of the day.

“I have to say at the grand old age of 62, were it to happen now, if I were raped today, I still wouldn’t report it,” she said. “There is no easy way to get justice for this.”

The motion before delegates called for UBCM to support the creation of an intergovernmental task force to identify how to erase the rape culture in schools, universities, workplaces and elsewhere in Canada.

The concept is that rape victims, possibly perpetrators and others affected might testify, along the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for residential school abuse victims, to try to change societal attitudes and determine how to improve reporting, arrest and conviction rates.

Advocates cited examples of University of B.C. students singing “rape chants” and the revictimization of some sex assault victims by the circulation of photos on social media.

But View Royal Mayor David Screech took issue with the wording of the resolution and its claim the problem is “pervasive” and therefore rampant.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” he said.

More women politicians then stepped forward to reveal themselves as victims and other men and women told Screech he was wrong.

“To say that we are living in a culture that is not pervasive of rape is ridiculous,” Maple Ridge Coun. Kiersten Duncan said.

Duncan said she has worked with at-risk youth who after being date-drugged and victimized have been accused of inventing attacks.

“I have to constantly think about what I wear. Is it appropriate for me to wear something? Is that going to put me in a position where someone feels they have a right to abuse me?

“That is the society that we live in. And if you don’t think that’s real, then you obviously don’t know what it’s like to live like a woman in today’s society.”

Smithers Coun. Greg Brown said he’s witnessed too many inappropriate comments in hockey dressing rooms to think otherwise.

“Even if those comments don’t lead to an act of rape, the fact that they don’t get challenged means they’re pervasive,” Brown said.

“These ideas exist. They linger in our culture in video games, in conversations. We have boys 11 years old using the word rape not even knowing what it means.”

The resolution passed with overwhelming support.

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Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.
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