Falsies don’t mean ‘yes’

Manitoba justice was wrong to base ruling on rape victim’s clothing

All you girls out there better think twice before dressing up for a night out. After all, it seems that wearing a braless tube top is now judicially perceived as equivalent to the phrase, “Yes, I would like to have intercourse with you.” Heels mean you’re a harlot, in case you didn’t know, and wearing makeup implies you’re ready for a whole lot of fun. In future, eyes on the floor, skin clear, and for Christ’s sake keep those ankles covered. That way, we won’t have any confusion about so-called “consensual” sex.

These helpful hints are in accordance with a recent ruling by Manitoba’s Justice Robert Dewar, who decided that a man convicted of rape would not serve time in prison. According to Dewar, the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air,” specifically noting her attire which included high heels, a tube top without a bra, and lots of makeup. Commenting on the behaviour of the victim and her friend, Dewar said, “They made their intentions publicly known that they wanted to party.”

The obvious explanation is that Justice Dewar must’ve studied under Toronto’s Constable Michael Sanguinetti, who told a room full of York University students last month that they can avoid sexual assault by not dressing like “sluts.” The onus is on you, girls; make sure you don’t give the impression that you’re some sort of trollop. Because if you do—well, that’s pretty much the same thing as explicitly saying “yes,” right?

Actually, no. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the idea of implied consent as a viable defense over a decade ago in a ruling involving the case of R. v. Ewanchuk. And before that, in 1992, Canada established rape shield law provisions essentially limiting the extent to which a victim’s sexual history could be brought into a rape trial. Both moves were seen as positive steps forward with regards to altering “blame the victim” attitudes often prevalent in sexual assault cases. But as they say, one step forward…

Rulings such as Dewar’s and comments such as Sanguinetti’s not only reinforce negative stereotypes about rape victims who “ask for it,” but will likely dissuade further victims from coming forward and pressing charges. As is, just one in nine cases of sexual assault is actually reported to police; and I can see why victims may want to avoid having their tube tops as Exhibit A and their flirtatious texts as Exhibit B. As long as we keep blaming the victim, we can expect few to come forward.

So let me reiterate: a tube top doesn’t mean “yes.” Falsies don’t mean “yes.” Nor does a smile, or a wink, or a hair toss or twirl. The clothing of the victim in the Manitoba case shouldn’t have been used as the basis for Dewar’s ruling. Those of us who know that shouldn’t less the grass grow under our feet. And mine, I can assure you, will be wearing some killer heels.

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