November 25, 2018, marked the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. These 16 Days are a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

The theme for this year’s 16 Days is #HearMeToo: an end to the silence around sexual violence. LEAF joins UN Women in uplifting, honouring and privileging the voices of sexual assault survivors.

The era of #MeToo has empowered women globally to raise their voices against sexual violence. This movement is crucial. Indeed, Canada has been plagued by a crisis of underreporting of sexually violent crimes. In 2014, only 5% of sexual assaults in Canada were reported to police, and only 0.3% of those sexual assaults lead to a criminal conviction. This context demonstrates the importance of this year’s theme. The time has come to #BelieveSurvivors of sexual violence, and to #HearMeToo.

Ending the silence around sexual violence means ending the shame, stigma, and stereotyping of sexual assault complainants. Women’s silence is often a product of fear of being blamed for the violence committed against them, or of being accused of lying for ulterior motives. To end the silence, we must end the discriminatory myths about survivors of sexual violence.

LEAF has long fought to confront those myths. On these 16 Days, we highlight 16 myths that LEAF and our feminist partners have fought to eradicate from the law of sexual assault, to make it safer for women to report sexual violence:

  1. Women are uniquely prone to lie about rape and put innocent men at risk:
  2. Women say no when they really mean yes;
  3. Women who have had sex in the past are more likely to consent or are less worthy of belief;
  4. Women’s clothing choices are relevant to whether or not they have been sexually assaulted;
  5. Women who have engaged in sex in exchange for money are more likely to consent to sex;
  6. Women who have engaged in sex in exchange for money are more likely to consent to risky or dangerous sex;
  7. Indigenous women are more likely to consent to sex or are less worthy of belief about sexual assault;
  8. Black women are more promiscuous, and therefore less worthy of belief about sexual assault;
  9. Silence or passivity is the same as consent;
  10. A lack of physical resistance to sexual assault is the same as consent;
  11. Women who are intoxicated are more likely to consent or exist in a permanent state of consent, short of unconsciousness;
  12. Women may use religious face coverings in order to better deceive the Court about sexual assault;
  13. Women with disabilities are incapable of providing an honest account of sexual assault or are less worthy of belief;
  14. Women and children fantasize about sexual assault;
  15. Women who allege sexual assault are more like to be mentally unstable and should not be believed without a psychiatric evaluation;
  16. Women who do not take steps to avoid sexual victimization are responsible for the sexual violence committed against them.

Sadly, the list of myths goes on, and their impact is all too real. On these #16DaysOfActivism, LEAF recommits to eradicating these discriminatory myths and stereotypes from the justice system, so that it is finally able to #HearMeToo.