cbc books

CBC Books has published a list of 100 true stories that make you proud to be Canadian, and I am honoured to see One Hour in Paris alongside such great Canadian books.

On being raped

As a rape survivor, my understanding of sexual violence has been ineluctably shaped by my own experience, and because I am preoccupied with issues connected to gender inequality, that experience is filtered through a feminist lens. When I think about the issue of sexual violence I think about the broad and systemic problem of violence against women. I think about the structural and institutional ways in which societies privilege men over women; I think about the social norms that perpetuate and reinforce victim-blaming narratives; and I think about how our judicial and legal systems are set up to protect, not the rape survivor, but the accused. I also think about numbers – 1 in 3 women worldwide – and then I think about the fact that even though the threat of violence is something all women live with, if you’re an Aboriginal woman or girl in Canada, the threat of violence is 4-5 times greater for you than for non-Aboriginals.

I can be so consumed by the problem of violence against women and related issues of gender inequality that I can be guilty of overlooking the problem of male rape – and I don’t mean the rape of young boys, who are commonly seen as being equally as vulnerable as young girls. I mean adult men who are victims of rape by other adult men. We hear so few of these stories, which I guess should come as no surprise. It’s easy to imagine that whatever social pressures there are on women to keep silent about their rapes, those pressures are tenfold on men, who are expected to be invulnerable to such attacks and who, in the wake of such attacks, have even fewer institutional resources than women to support them. As it stands, we barely have a concept of adult male rape.

An extraordinary new book by historian and distinguished Colgate University professor Raymond M. Douglas, On Being Raped, looks to change that. Douglas was raped at the age of 18 by a Catholic priest, and this slim volume tells the story of that devastating event, of the decades of trauma that followed it, and of what it is like to be raped in a society that does not acknowledge the existence of male rape. This profound, insightful, and generous book forces us to reconsider our assumptions about gender and sexual violence. It asks us to think about other numbers, ones that have yet to be registered statistically. It also makes patently clear that whatever differences there are between us, for the rape survivor, rape is rape.