Editorial — April 14, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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An Edmonton radio station got itself into an ugly situation last week with a poll question on its website.

If you agree with their question, it might be time for a long period of reflection.

Here’s what they asked.

“It’s very controversial, but do you think victims of sexual assaults share any blame for what happens?” news-talk station CHED asked on its website.

The poll gave people the option of voting “No, women should be able to dress, drink, and walk as they choose without fear of being blamed” or “Yes, if women drink too much, dress too little or walk in harm’s way they put themselves at risk.”

It casts everybody in a bad light. Women who don’t behave like schoolmarms “deserve it” because men are too weak to control themselves.

The mind reels.

We’re happy to report that the reaction was swift and one-sided.

The Canadian Press reported that around noon, the station’s brand director Syd Smith apologized on air for the phrasing of the question, saying it lacked context.

“That question, void of context, would make me angry coming from our station or another media outlet,” said Smith.

“It was ham-handed in the way that we put it out there, and it was wrong.”

The question was rewritten, linking it to a community discussion that noted victim blaming still occurs in sex assaults. The potential answers were unchanged.

“An (Edmonton) panel on rape culture says victim blaming is still an issue. Do you think victims of sexual assaults share any blame for what happens?”

There is no justification for sexual assault ever. It doesn’t matter if a person is impaired, dressed provocatively (or not at all) or in any situation.

Every woman has the right to her own body and the right to say no.

If a sexual act has even started and she says no more, it’s over.

It’s a fairly simple concept for people to grasp, especially if they think of the women closest to them in their lives. There aren’t one set of rules for how your sister or daughter or mother are treated and how everyone else should be dealt with; it’s one rule, plain and simple.

Alberta Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk put it quite nicely as he asked for a review of his department’s advertising with CHED.

“This (poll) is one of the reasons why (sexual assault) victims often go unnoticed and unreported because they're made to believe that they're somehow complicit, that they somehow brought it on themselves,” Lukaszuk said.

“In a way this vindicates the perpetrators, and that’s just not acceptable.”

After another hour of outrage, the radio station pulled down the question completely and issued another apology.

“We apologize for the inappropriate poll posted today. People are understandably upset. It has been removed. We will do better in the future,” read a tweet from the station.

This isn’t about being politically correct or muzzling free speech as some will suggest. It’s about doing the right thing.

The saddest part of this story is the final result of the voting. One-third of people agreed that women contribute to their own sexual assault.

For shame.

 

Prince Albert Daily Herald

 

Organizations: Canadian Press, Prince Albert, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Edmonton, Alberta

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