Dear Mr. Manchester

Regarding “Girl Has Been in Trouble for Lying” December 1, 20011. I am concerned that the Kelowna Daily Courier is relying upon inflammatory and dangerous stereotypes about sexual assault victims to capture reader’s attention.

Last week, the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society issued a joint press release in conjunction with the Ending Violence Association of BC regarding the seriousness and dangers associated with sexual violence.

Gisele Duckham, a Princeton area woman, was found shot to death in her home with the prime suspect in her murder a high-risk sex offender who had been breaching conditions of his long term supervision order. 

In Armstrong, a recent break in the murder investigation of Taylor Van Diest links the suspect in that case to an incident of sexual assault that was reported to police in Kelowna in 2005.

Also in Kelowna, there were no charges of sexual assault laid in connection with the trial of Neil Snelson for the murder of Jennifer Cusworth, though prosecutors told the court that Snelson beat Jennifer to death after he had abducted her as she walked home from a party and sexually assaulted her. 

Sexual violence is a key component in the many cases of missing and murdered women in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.  We are also aware that callous attitudes plagued by dangerous stereotypes undermined this investigation.

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in Canada.  Sex offences are less likely than any other violent offences to gain a conviction.  The long term impact on the lives of women, girls, their families, and communities is devastating. Suicide or attempted suicide is common for survivors of rape.

One of the reasons why rape and abuse victims do not come forward is because of fear that they will not be believed.  They fear that they will be blamed.  They fear that the focus will be on what they did wrong rather than on what was done wrong to them.  Your headline has provided the wrong kind of reassurance.

Ask yourself: who benefits from perpetuating the stereotype that rape victims are liars?  I am concerned that by reinforcing the myth that rape victims are liars, you have emboldened abusers who rely on this type of fear and vulnerability to get away with abusing women and children.  

If you take responsibility for the power that you have to inform, you must also take responsibility for being informed. Information about the risks and dynamics of sexual assault can be found at empoweringchange.net  I can be reached at 250 763-4613.

Sincerely,

Aimee Thompson,
Agency Coordinator
Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society