"You Called Me A Whore"

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“You Called Me A Whore”

Alice Moran, Canadian, comedian, Beachcombers enthusiast, and one of the victims of a recent string of sexual assaults in Toronto's west end, responds to Krista Ford's victim blaming.

A tweet from Krista Ford made yesterday, since deleted, but captured via {a href="http://storify.com/canadapolitics/krista-ford-tweets-don-t-dress-like-a-whore"}this recap{/a} of her words, and the reaction to them.

Toronto does not take kindly to victim blaming.

On January 24, 2011, Constable Michael Sanguinetti and a colleague, both of the Toronto Police Service, visited York University to speak at the Osgoode Hall Law School about safety on campus. During the presentation, Sanguinetti commented that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” In response to Sanguinetti’s comments, the Toronto SlutWalk was founded, a vocal and active advocacy group that seeks to end victim blaming in cases of sexual assault. Since then, SlutWalk branches and events have sprung up all over the world.

Despite these and other efforts to fight victim blaming and refute myths that anything a woman does or wears somehow provokes sexual violence, it was once more made vividly clear yesterday that the climate is still hostile and that there is still a great deal of work to be done. On Wednesday, the Toronto Police Service held a press conference in regard to six sexual assaults that have occurred recently in the Bloor Street West/Christie Street area. The press conference included a description of the perpetrator of each assault, who police now suspect to be the same man. A discussion on safety spilled over online.

Then, Krista Ford, daughter of Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) and niece to the mayor, offered up the following pearl of wisdom in regards to how women can avoid assault: “Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defense classes & don’t dress like a whore. #DontBeAVictim #StreetSmart”

It is always incredibly disheartening when a public figure (and though she is not elected, Krista clearly commands a certain amount of attention) reasserts the myth that victims of sexual assault are somehow to blame for the crimes perpetrated against them, and that somehow a woman’s behaviour or outfit can have any effect whatsoever on whether she is assaulted. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite the work of so many to see damaging myths replaced with truths, it is deeply frustrating to hear these myths repeated. Above all, to victims of sexual assault, it is hurtful, disrespectful, and profoundly dismissive.

Some of the responses were also extremely problematic, as many commenters mocked Krista Ford for her time in the Lingerie Football League, effectively replying to slut-shaming with slut-shaming. It was a hard, ugly moment.

And then, a remarkable thing happened: Alice Moran, a victim of one of the sexual assaults that led police to hold the press conference in question, wrote a response to Krista Ford and everyone else in the victim-blaming camp:

“Dear a lot of people, but specifically Ms. Krista Ford,

In advance I’d like to say I am sorry. This is not the ideal situation to first acquaint oneself with someone and I am mortified. Sorry! However, under the circumstance, I feel like you owe me a moment of your time, even though we’ve never meet.

The circumstance being you called me a whore.

I should clarify: I’m one of the victims of the recent string of sexual assaults in the Annex. ‘Sup? It’s nice to make you acquaintance.

So, you’ve called me a whore. Here we are. This is awkward now, isn’t it? You’re probably wondering if I’m going to challenge you on having been a member of Lingerie League. I’m not, because I’d never slut-shame another woman. I believe you have a right to your body and regardless of how you do or don’t dress it I believe you have a right to respect and personal security. I guess that’s the key difference in our thinking. You could wear a t-shirt that says ‘I’m literally asking for it’ and I’d still advocate for your security.

That’s what I’m asking for this brief moment of your day, for your edification. You’re a woman and you should know that your body is yours and yours alone. No matter how you dress it, you have a right – an actual Charter of Rights and Freedom right – to not be sexually assaulted. You are entitled to life, liberty and the security of person. Welcome to Canada – you live here! If you weren’t aware of your Charter rights, other Canadian things you may have missed out on are double-doubles, good maple syrup, and Beachcombers*, so check that shit out.

For the record, I was sexually assaulted while wearing a knee-length polka-dot dress. The last time I wore that dress, it was to Easter dinner at my Gran’s, where I’m fairly certain I could make little to no money whoring.

With due repect / sorry,
Alice Moran
Canadian / Comedian / Beachcombers Enthusiast

*I love Beachcombers.”

Moran’s response is at once a gutsy and generous gesture, and attempts to reach out and educate Krista Ford while also not letting her, and other victim blamers, off the hook.

Krista Ford has since issued a statement apologizing for her earlier tweet: “I didn’t mean to cause such an alarm and I apologize if I did.I just want women to be safe.” In her statement, Ford goes on to state that she believes that women should avoid dangerous situations (which she identifies as walking alone), should be aware of their surroundings, and should be able to protect themselves (she advocates kickboxing).

While her apology seems genuine, it is clear that Ford is still missing the mark. Dealing effectively with sexual assault requires shifting responsibility from the victims to the perpetrators. It is not someone’s responsibility to carry mace or know how to throw a punch; the onus is on everyone else not to commit assaults. Only by rallying around victims, calling out victim blaming, focusing on punishing those who have committed assault, and improving community engagement and education can we make people safe.

While incidents of victim blaming are disheartening, it is also inspiring to see Toronto slowly transforming into a place where it is no longer tolerated.

(Note: We attempted to reach Alice Moran for further comment, but we did not hear back from her before press time. We will update this piece if we hear from her later on.)

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