Who knew that you could make sexual asasult worse?

Courtesy of reader Cheryl comes this very sad story. In Ottawa, a Muslim woman was sexually assaulted while attending university. An Ottawa paper covered the story, printing that the woman was raped. The victim has now come out clarifying that she was not raped, due to concern that she will be rejected as “not clean” by the Muslim community.

Ottawa’s Muslim community is standing behind a young woman, who was sexually assaulted at Carleton University in early September, in her plea to clarify that she was not raped.

The woman expressed her concern through Ottawa Hospital Sexual Assault Unit nurses Tuesday that as an un-married Muslim woman, she would be considered “not clean” and that perceived rape would threaten her future with a potential Muslim husband.

Mumtaz Akhtar, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association said he believes the community will support her. “We do not judge,” he said. “We should let her have peace with herself.”

. . . The young woman, who has not been identified, told Christine Baker, a sexual assault nurse examiner at the Ottawa Hospital, four days after the assault that she was not raped and expressed concern that the incorrect information would destroy her future.

“This is the rest of her life that we’re dealing with,” she said.

“This misconception, and by it being so widely publicized, could potentially ruin her future in a much more devastating way than anybody else who is not of that faith,” she said.

This is tragic on more than one level.

The first, of course, is that she was assaulted at all.

The second tragedy is the irresponsibility of the newspaper that claimed the victim was raped. “Sexual assault,” though often used as a euphemism for rape, describes many other types of assault. It is hard to know whether the woman was actually raped and then publicly claimed she wasn’t to try to avoid public “humiliation,” or that she actually was not raped. For some reason (that I can’t really place my finger on), I am inclined to believe her assertion that the sexual assault was not a rape. In either case, I  really don’t think that it is any of our business. The fact is that the newspaper stepped over the line and made an assumption when it’s their job to report the facts. It’s just bad journalism, and it’s dangerous.

The third is the victim’s belief that the Muslim community would ostracize her based on the attack.  Her fear, of course, is not entirely unfounded, and there are many countries and communities in the world where it would be incredibly justified. Luckily, she’s in Canada, and I’m proud of the Ottawa Muslim Association for expressing their unconditional support.

We obviously know nothing about the victim’s family life. So it’s quite possible that her immediate family and community would ostracize her. If that’s what she’s up against, I can’t even imagine what she is going through.

The idea that a woman who is raped could be considered “not clean” is devastating and the ultimate in victim-blaming and misogyny. Sexual assault victims have enough to deal with and certainly don’t need this kind of stress piled on top. My heart goes out to her.

0 thoughts on “Who knew that you could make sexual asasult worse?

  1. Oni Baba

    Just to clarify something, in Canadian criminal law, the offence of “rape” does not exist since 1985 and has been replaced with that of “sexual assault”. “Rape” was thrown out because it was narowly defined as the act of a man who has carnal knowledge of a woman, not being his wife and being over 14 years of age, by force and without her consent.
    “Sexual assault” is gender neutral and casts a broader net of criminal responsibility. It occurs when a person touches another, without his or her consent, in a sexual context or in a sexual manner.

    There are three “levels” of sexual assault: sexual assault simpliciter, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault (where the victim is wounded, maimed or disfigured, as in this case, it would appear). The maximum penalty for these offences is, respectively, 10 years’ imprisonment, 14 years’ imprisonment, and life’s imprisonment. The maximum penalty for the former offence of rape was life’s imprisonment with 50 lashes.

    Here’s a link to a post I wrote on this story: http://womenwithswords.blogspot.com/2007/09/sexual-assault-is-not-about-loss-of.html


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