Goodbye 2016 and Hello 2017! In spite of all the hardships that 2016 brought, some good things happened this year in opening up the conversation about sexual assault and the treatment of survivors in court and by the media. While we still have a long way to go, Project Consent is happy to announce that there were still some wins this year in regards to supporting sexual assault survivors:
- California passed a bill that bans probation after a sexual assault conviction.
After the public's backlash from the sentencing of the Stanford University rape case, the state of California passed a legislation to prevent light sentencing after a conviction for sexual assault. Under the new California law, someone who is convincted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated individual that is unable to give consent will not have the option of probation.
- The Canadian Judicial Committee (CJC) recommended that a judge be removed due to his comments in a rape case.
Justice Robin Camp asked a woman why “she couldn’t just keep her knees together” during a sexual assault trial he presided over in 2014. An inquiry was opened into his comments and the effects that it may have had. The CJC concluded that his comments had detrimental effects on the public's confidence in the judicial system and recommended that he be removed from the bench because of his actions and words in court towards the survivor. The CJC's vote in this decision was unanimous. An independent organization also deemed that his treatment of the survivor was unacceptable.
- Sexual assault cases were at the forefront of the news rotation.
Social media and the news followed the unfortunate amount of sexual assault cases that appeared this year. However, this also allowed for conversations about sexual assault and ways to help support survivors. The news followed the Jian Ghomeshi trial, and when the verdict came in not guilty, there was a notable shift in the conversation surrounding sexual assault. The Ghomeshi case opened up dialogue about how sexual assault survivors are treated in court. The outcry from activists and people who followed the news was impossible to ignore, especially on social media with #IBelieveSurvivors trending on Twitter. People poured out their support for survivors and the conversation continues today.
- The University of Richmond announced it would create a center for Sexual Assault Prevention.
Over 2,700 students signed a petition circling around at the University of Richmond as they felt that the university was not doing enough to support survivors of sexual assault. The university also announced that investigations into sexual assaults on campus will now be done independently from the university and survivors are allowed to participate. It was also announced that the university would create a 24/7 hotline for survivors.
This year was a year of realization for a lot of important facets of society. Governments, the media and independent organizations alike realized that the treatment of survivors in sexual assault cases has been terribly below what should be expected. It was a year of growth in combating rape culture and stigma surrounding survivors, but it cannot end in 2016. With the new year, we have to work even harder. We have to support survivors. We have to protest and stand up when there is a trial sentencing that is much less than is deserved. This year was a show of strength, and next year is going to be even stronger.