A Legal Definition of Consent

Yesterday, we headed down to Parc de la paix for the Montreal SlutWalk rally. Although there were only a few hundred people at the initial gathering, the crowd was enthusiastic and alive with cheers and jeers. The message at the rally was loud and clear: the only one responsible for sexual assault is the person who cannot take "no" for an answer. Victims should not be blamed for their clothing regardless of the comments of Toronto Police Officer Michael Sanguinetti, who told a small group of Osgoode Hall students in January 2011 that for their own personal safety, women should not dress "like sluts." Mr. Sanguinetti's remarks have sparked SlutWalks around the world. 

The Montreal SlutWalk came just three days after the Supreme Court of Canada's 6-to-3 decision regarding sexual consent. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin stated, "Any sexual activity with an individual who is incapable of consciously evaluating whether she is consenting is therefore not consensual within the meaning of the Criminal Code." In Canada, the definition of consent is now defined as an ongoing state of mind where individuals can ask their partner to stop. Hence, if your partner has passed out, you no longer have her consent. Sounds like good old common sense to me!

A lot of people people still have some problems identifying victim-blaming situations. However, this is not surprising given how sexual assault has been treated by our criminal justice systems. In my life time, I have heard of a woman being blamed for her own sexual assault:

1. because of her provocative clothing.
2. because she had a reputation for liking sex.
3. because she was drunk.
4. because she was flirting.

In these cases, the finger was never pointed at the violent offender.

The SlutWalks around the world are a good way to raise awareness about the fact that "no" means "no" regardless of how one is dressed and that the offender is the only one to blame in an incident of sexual assault.

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