Open Letter to Ms. Simons and Editors of the Edmonton Journal

A response to this opinion piece by Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal, on July 10, 2013


As the organizers of this year’s Edmonton Slut Walk, we were initially delighted to hear that you would be covering the emergence of posters which mock a well-established and successful anti-rape campaign. Upon reading your article, those feelings quickly changed to horror, that an ally would use their large platform to spread misinformation about rape and false rape allegations.

Though your piece did appear in the “opinion” column, that isn’t license to spread an opinion that makes the world safer for rapists, and harder for victims. Inevitably, that is what you do when you focus on the behavior of the victim, versus the intent of the rapist.

In a piece by the CBC, who showed demonstrably more responsibility in reporting on the posters, acting Insp. Sean Armstrong from the serious crimes branch of Edmonton Police Service said that false allegations are “extremely rare”. Armstrong goes on to say “I was [a] sexual assault detective for 4½ years and in that time I only dealt with one, and I dealt with numerous files. Many, many, many files,”.  Additionally, police fear the posters will deter victims from speaking out. “We want to encourage people to come forward and report these horrendous crimes,” Armstrong said.

“Let’s be clear.” You, Ms. Simons, write, “Any man who’d have intercourse with someone passed out cold or too drunk to stand or speak is both a criminal and a loser”. Well, Ms. Simons, he is also a rapist, and we believe in calling a lemon a lemon. The number of women from all walks of life who have been raped, and have spoken to the organizers of Slut Walk individually is a high enough number to make one’s skin crawl, and those are only the people willing to speak about their trauma. We don’t dance around this issue anymore.


False rape accusations are terrible, and they are destructive to people’s lives. It would be ignorant to pretend otherwise, and you do highlight some of the problems that occur in these cases including sexual agency. Yet, what your letter and the entire mocking ‘don’t be that girl’ campaign miss, is that one of the largest obstacles to justice and healing for sexual assault victims is excessive disbelief. This skepticism of sexual assault survivors regularly manifests, with victims lambasted both online and in their communities. In the real world, rape very often happens without witnesses, or physical evidence of non-consent. Many rapes go unpunished. Statistics that float around on the internet claiming that 41% of rape charges are false are based on bad data that was unable to be verified by any secondary sources. Quite likely the reason you made no citation about the statistics on the prevalence of false rape, is because they are difficult to pin down. Researchers are often counting different things. In Canada the data illustrates between 2-5%. Instances of false reports of auto theft are higher.

You write: “Yet no matter your gender, if you’re too impaired to take care of yourself, the odds someone will hurt you or take advantage of you certainly go up.” This is victim-blaming. The act of sexual violence is an action committed by one  person, against another person. You ignore what you must have heard as a feminist writing about rape—the victim bears no responsibility over the crime perpetrated against them. Safety tips such as ‘don’t drink so much’ have been provided to teenagers for years. The perverse reality of safety tips, such as the belief that by drinking you are putting yourself in harm’s way, is based on an antiquated notion of rape as something done by a boogeyman lurking in the bushes to rape you. Stranger attacks do happen, but the overwhelming majority of attacks are committed in a victim’s home, and often by someone they trust.

Safety tips only place the responsibility of rape back on the victim. The pervasiveness of this attitude, of telling women who have been raped that having made themselves vulnerable and having been ‘damned stupid’, is unacceptable. Rapists create the threat of rape by being willing to rape. We are unwilling to see rape as inevitable. The notion that they could have prevented being raped haunts survivors of sexual assault. Please stop ripping open barely cauterized wounds in the name of commentary.

When you write that it is “[l]ittle wonder some confused young women use alcohol as a social crutch”, we wonder if you are aware that rapists knowingly use alcohol to ply the victim, knowing that this makes allegations of rape look suspicious.

Regarding the “Don’t Be That Guy” Campaign: it was not intended as a campaign to paint all men as rapists, because the vast majority of men are not rapists. Current theory, ‘predator theory’ uses the work of Dr. David Lisak, who co-authored a 2002 study of nearly 1,900 college men, published in the academic journal Violence and Victims. He has said in interviews, “the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by serial offenders who, on average, have six victims. So, this is who’s doing it”.

Ms Simons, rape culture runs deep in society and we understand the urge to teach people to protect themselves from harm. While teenage binge drinking is a problem, rape should not be used as a scare tactic on young women. Especially not in the same year in which Canada lost Rehtaeh Parsons to rape, slut-shaming, and re-victimization by her community. The safety tips you offer didn’t spare Ms. Parsons. Don’t insult her family by calling her “damned stupid” for acting like a normal teenager. She did not deserve what happened to her, and neither does any other victim. The safety tips of not getting into cars with strangers didn’t spare the young man sexually assaulted by four women in Toronto either. Let’s shift the onus from avoiding harm through ineffective safety tips, to preventing harm by teaching consent and to not rape.

There is nothing a person can ever do to deserve sexual violence.


Danielle Paradis

Devonne Kendrick

Patrick McIlveen

Penny Paradis

Sheri De Vries

The Slut Walk 2013 Organizing Committee


Why Hugs?

A friend of mine, after having been greeted via IM, by my customary “Hugs!”, asked me “why?”

Without even thinking, I responded:

“because, it’s like some kind of expression… of love, of friendship, of kinship, because it’s a physical manifestation of that fraternity and sorority that connects all living things… something like that.”

“or maybe another way of just saying “hi”.”

I’m not sure if this thought will lead anywhere, or if this is it, but I figured I would post it, before time allowed it to escape.


Searching for an escape
through doors with no windows.
circulating through
a one-ended turnstile.
Repeated experience;
the same situation
is it a trap?
or a lesson to learn?

what is it now, that im running from?
have I come to terms with myself?
I probably face annhilation
If I do not figure this out

Amazing Article. The analogy of a video game, done right.


I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a…

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“Wake up…”

“I’m so sick of hearing people complain.

From my point of view, people (especially from the constant rants I see on particularly your, and the odd time [your partner]’s page), seriously just need to learn to be thankful for what we have as Canadians and exceptionally so as Albertans.

Wake up and take some time to smell the roses every once in awhile. Being so angry and frustrated with everything all the time isn’t good for your health, seriously. I love you guys, I don’t want to see one of you give yourself a heart attack. Focus on the finer things in life for once, not every single thing that is wrong in this world. You are in charge of your happiness.”

This excerpt was penned by an extended family member, part of a comment on Facebook, where a debate over Highway 63 was happening. It sparked a gut reaction in me so severe, that I dare not comment again directly. It has pushed me to write again though, because it touched- nay- grabbed at and twisted a nerve with me.

I have always considered myself to be an active, principled person. I’m not the type to just sit around passively observing the world around me. I’m the (creepy) guy who joins someone else’s conversation on the bus. I interact with my surroundings, offer hugs to nearly anyone I meet in a non-professional setting, love everyone unless they give me a solid reason not to. In the same respect, I find it hard to sit idly by while someone else claims superiority over another, denounces another’s rights as a human being, or boldly attempts to sway people with falsehoods for their personal or organizational gain.

In these respects, I am a decisive, intense, polar person.

The reason why the above commentary irks me so much happens to tie directly into this facet of my ethos. The way I initially read it, is that I’m being told I’m an angry, unhappy, ungrateful person, with a big mouth, who likes to stir up shit, and is at risk of becoming medically compromised. After my instinctive desire to hand out an abusive tongue lashing died down (the family member is of a more conservative, evangelical christian demeanor, likely one of the more antithetical beings that i have to co-exist with), I started to pick apart what was being told.

“Focus on the finer things…”
Obviously, this family member doesn’t know me well enough. Despite my penchant for frugality, borne of my continued existence as a college student not enrolled in classes, I love the finer “things”. I’m an enthusiast of Scotch Whiskey (Speyside preferably), I love wine, and adore cheese. I marvel at the mechanical intricacies of motor vehicles. I get shivers from the right combinations of bass guitar, and Hammond-overdriven Leslie speakers. I am quite well versed (in my opinion) on the “things” side of fine.

When it comes to the “finer things” that aren’t tangible, I am equally immersed in the waters. I have cultivated friendships with some of the most open-minded, accepting people I have ever met. As a card-carrying member (seriously!) of the local kink community, I’m exposed to the satisfaction of deep carnal desires, while roiling in an ever-present atmosphere of love and trust. Heck, I’m in relationships with two fine and wonderful women, and they both know and approve!

“Focus on … not every single thing that is wrong in this world.”
“Being so angry and frustrated … isn’t good for your health…”
I find it odd that someone who peruses my Facebook wouldn’t happen to notice that, while I do end up posting lots of stuff about topics I find to be important, I also end up posting more than my fair share of funny stuff and extreme music (primarily progressive metal), among other things. I find no evidence that my love of extreme music is a portrayal of  anger; rather it is an extension of my polar self. It is my escape, my destress. In addition, not speaking about things which concern me lends a feeling of helplessness, exacerbating my depression. I would be more worried about that affecting my heath than a good-nature love for debate.

“…take some time to smell the roses every once in awhile…”
I’ll admit, I have been lacking in this category. Given an employer that cannot have a solid schedule until 2130 the night previous though, I’m sure most people would find achieving the prime work/life balance difficult. This is exactly why I’ve been trying to live my life to the fullest in the 6 weeks I’ve been on Short Term Disability (the battle to actually receive my benefits is another story altogether). New girlfriend, coffee dates, board games, anything and everything my back can handle. Reacquainting myself with a work schedule, and accommodating this will be tough, but having had the longest period of not working, searching for work or learning in my entire life, I know now that I need to focus on this once I am back in the workforce…

“…learn to be thankful…”
“…constant rants…”
I’m extremely thankful. I would list everything, but that went with turkey dinner 3 weeks ago. The one thing that I am most thankful for though, is the freedom to give and receive information freely. This freedom has allowed my worldview to be affected by many, and if I can only affect one person in return, then I have made a difference in the world. Obviously, my ranting has touched someone enough for them to comment back in concern (and quite possibly annoyance as well), shows that I have been doing just this, even if only on a small scale. Doing a 180, I can see all these people who have given me the tools to become who I am, and looking forward, I aspire to give others whatever it is they will need for their journey to become self-actualizing. I don’t care about receiving thanks, but more that they can take inspiration from me.

So with all this said, I can proudly see that I’m on the right path. I will continue to rant my ass off, regardless of who doesn’t like it and who disagrees with my points. I could really care less about a building a legacy in stone. No, I want my legacy to be immortalized in song, in folktale, in bardic right. I want to be seen as an example for others, one who is known to not just settle with “good enough”, but rather pushes himself and rallies others for more, for better.


Thinking about if I have to get retraining due to this injury, what I will do.  I could finish civil engineering technology at NAIT, take engineering drafting and design technology, or returning to the tech support field…


According to Maslow, we become self-actualizing when our other needs are fulfilled, or no longer a concern.  Does this mean then, that our pursuits are ultimately fruitless? Should we give up everything we know, love, and desire, hole up in a nunnery or monastery, and by doing so, free ourselves of earthly cares?