A huge amount of work remains to be done to shift society, including the criminal justice system, to better support people who have been sexually assaulted.
Today, West Coast LEAF is proud to release our new animated video, The Unfinished Story of Yes, to recognize hard-won progress for the rights of survivors and to push for the changes that are still urgently needed.
The video is the brainchild of post-secondary students from across BC who served on the advisory committee for our Only Yes Means Yes legal education project, which unpacks the law of consent through a critical social justice lens.
In the first phase of the project, we developed a workshop—about how the legal understanding of consent measures up against an ethical understanding of consent and about the legal and non-legal options available to survivors—which we’ve delivered 30 times so far on campuses across BC.
Based on all we’ve learned from workshop participants and our student advisors, we’ve created a video about the legal definitions of consent and sexual assault, the activism that has shaped the current law, and the deep flaws that remain in the legal system’s handling of sexual assault.
Our video highlights the absolute ethical and legal requirement to check for consent: a freely given, active, ongoing yes.
It also acknowledges that many survivors don’t view Canadian state law as the right route to healing and justice for them.
In fact, only about 5% of sexual assaults are reported to police. Of these, only about 12% lead to conviction.
Many people do not report sexual assault through the criminal justice system because of legitimate concerns about being discriminated against, blamed, or automatically disbelieved. These risks can be all the more acute for survivors who are marginalized based on Indigenous identity, race, poverty, disability, gender identity and expression, and other aspects of who they are.
Victim-blaming ideas can show up in the justice system because they have deep roots in our culture. These toxic attitudes must be uprooted in order to make reporting through the criminal justice system a viable option for all survivors who wish to pursue it.
The Unfinished Story of Yes affirms that no one is ever to blame for being sexually assaulted. It calls on each of us to help build the consent culture that is a necessary foundation for a legal system that respects survivors and their rights.
The Only Yes Means Yes project is made possible by the generous support of the Law Foundation of BC, the Health Sciences Association of BC, the Province of BC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and Impacts.