Friday, 17 February 2017

victims are not to blame

What is it going to take to stop blaming rape victims?

According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime and of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported. That means of every 100 cases of sexual assault, 94 of the women’s abusers are not held accountable for their actions and have likely moved onto another victim.

If you’re wondering why so few cases are reported, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi was charged with four counts of sexual assault in 2014.  In 2016, Ghomeshi was acquitted when the judge questioned the credibility of the victims, claiming it was “impossible to have sufficient faith in the reliability of these complainants.”  

The victims of Ghomeshi’s sexual assault were referred to by the media as “manipulative” and “insincere”.  I suppose they’re right; one should be expected to have complete, unflinching memory of every detail that took place during a gravely traumatic experience, am I right?

Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in prison after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at a frat party and ended up being released after serving just half of his sentence.  The victim of Turner’s sexual assault said she “felt embarrassed for trying, for being led to believe [she] had any influence.”  

Even with forensic evidence, unbiased witnesses, and police at the scene, the case was not considered a “slam dunk.”  Turner’s sentence was shortened from 6 months to 3 months because the judge feared a longer sentence “would have a severe impact on [him].”  Seriously?

Now, let’s take a moment to imagine that our mother was (God forbid) sexually assaulted.  How likely is it that we would assume it was our mother’s fault for having been taken advantage of by another person?  Not very.  So then why are we so quick to assume that other victims of sexual assault were “asking for it” by being intoxicated, wearing provocative clothing, or not keeping their legs together?  And why are sexual assault cases still being reported by the media plastered with headlines that are blatantly questioning a victim’s credibility?

Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, one in which the victim deserves support and compassion.  We do not blame theft victims.  We do not blame assault victims.  We do not blame arson victims.  We need to STOP blaming rape victims. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

just a joke

It seems as though, even in today’s age, many people don’t know the reach and power of social media.  Although it seems like common knowledge, much of the population to forget that anything they post online can be seen or downloaded by anyone from any part of the world.  But as we’ve seen recently, social media can have a grave impact on someone’s livelihood. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, former Newfoundland radio personality Joel North was recently let go from his job with Coast 101.1 for a lewd comment directed toward a young woman on Twitter who was streaming herself playing an online video game. North claims that the comment was simply indicative of his “style of humour” and asserts that losing his livelihood due to a “harmless joke sets a very dangerous precedent.”  While many have in fact chalked it up to being just a joke, this situation hits home for a lot of us woman who use the Internet on a daily basis.

I can’t keep track of the number of times my comments on social media have been written off or deemed unworthy because I was being “too emotional” or because I was “a fat ugly bitch”.  I can’t recall many instances in which men were met with the same criticisms when posting on social media, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Maybe it’s the feeling of being protected by a computer screen, but social media seems to turn us into bullies.  I’m certainly guilty of making a sarcastic quip or two at someone else’s expense because I felt as though the ramifications would be virtually non-existent.

Case in point: Drew Williams has posted some videos to his Facebook page of his exchange with an obviously intoxicated woman presumably walking back to her home in Newfoundland in her pajamas.  One of the videos which features Williams yelling “you stinks!” at the woman has garnered almost 4,000 likes.  Williams has since photo shopped a picture of the women leaning against a pick-up truck and is using it as his profile picture.  Some of the comments on the picture read “She’s rotten” and “How much ya pay for dat”.  Yesterday, Williams made this post on his Facebook page:

Sure, many people think it’s a lot of fun to mock somebody who is perhaps down on their luck or to make sexual remarks to a stranger over the Internet when the likes and the laughs are pouring in, but once the negative consequences begin to rear their ugly heads, it seems it’s time to play it off as a joke.  What many don’t realize, however, is that you are not only representing yourself on social media, but your family, friends, and company as well.

Donald Trump is no stranger to our news feeds these days.  Isn’t it true that we tend to think less of those who endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?  Wasn’t there a pouring of outrage when the world found out that Kim Kardashian was considering voting for Trump?

Therefore, doesn’t it make sense that a company wouldn’t want to associate with somebody who live streams themselves yelling at an intoxicated woman on the side of the road in an attempt to make a mockery of her?  Wouldn’t you be wary about associating yourself with someone who tells a young woman that she’d gain more stream viewers if she took off her clothes?

Before the conception of things like Facebook and Twitter, any hateful, derogatory, and/or inane comments one made could be forgotten in a matter of hours and would only serve purpose to those who were present when the comment was made.  But make a comment like that in this decade and it’s embedded on the Internet until you have sense enough to take it down – but don’t forget about the 14 people who managed to get a screen shot of it before that, because they’ll probably be sharing it again.

I’m not saying social media is the root of all evil; I think it’s fantastic that I can view pictures of my cousin’s new baby from halfway across the country, and I can keep up to date with how my friends are doing in different provinces.  The point that I’m trying to make is this: Social media is not your private journal; anybody can see what you posted and privacy settings mean not a hell of a lot when your friends are sharing what you’ve posted on your page.  Treat social media as what it is: a way to broadcast yourself to the world.  Keep your private life private, be respectful, and for the love of God stop sharing those pictures of minions because they got unfunny like a year ago.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

frenchy's thrift zoo-tique

It's been a while...

Back in 2013, Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona gained a massive amount of notoriety after being featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. 

The episode revealed the owners’ delusion, arrogance, and lack of understanding about how to operate a client-based enterprise, resulting in a social media thrashing on the bakery’s Facebook page.  The owners of Amy’s Bakery responded in the best way they knew how: PROFANITY IN ALL CAPS.

Well, there seems to be another company making a name for themselves through social media meltdowns.

Frenchy’s Thrift Boutique in St. John’s, Newfoundland has recently acquired a new owner and with it, a new attitude.

Current owner Israt Jahan Khan has developed habits of publicly accusing employees of theft, posting legal documents on the shop’s social media page, and making public death threats against people she just plain doesn’t like.

Along with secondhand clothing, Khan’s thrift shop offers services in henna art, gel nails, and smartphone repairs.  Her portfolio of henna art features photos that appear to be taken from various henna sites around the Internet. 

Through her Facebook posts, Khan displays that she is uneducated about Canadian Labour Laws and seems to think that filing a complaint with the police constitutes laying criminal charges.

The Frenchy’s Thrift Boutique Facebook page consists of outlandish accusations against individuals she suspects to be shoplifters, copied and pasted versions of legal documentation, screenshots of private messages sent to her by unhappy customers, and threats to “spray nuclear gas” on certain members of a Facebook group boycotting her business.

Khan was also the last owner of Taste of Mediterranean before the restaurant was closed down due to evidence of rodent droppings and rent issues.

Khan’s LinkedIn profile lists the following under her accomplishments: Award winner Canadian Economist, Acridated [sic] and Award winner Canadian Statistician and Mathematician.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I understand that it may seem cruel to pick on a woman who doesn’t appear to be native of Canada; regardless, Labour Laws and business ethics apply to everybody.  I’d like to point out, as well, that Khan has been employed in Newfoundland since at least 2005 (according to her LinkedIn profile, anyway) and has been studying at Memorial University since 2007.  In my opinion, she is capable and deserving of being held responsible for her actions.

In early February, a page allegedly created by Khan called “Messages from the members of Boycott Frency’s group” has been posting profile screenshots of some of the members from the Boycott Frenchy’s Facebook group, referring to them as “rats” and calling their children “mice”.  One screenshot of a member’s profile that was posted on the “Messages from the members of Boycott Frency’s group” page was accompanied by the caption “Dnt go to Max before I kill this rat.”

The page has since been shut down, most likely due to the numerous reports made to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary by those who have been publicly threatened by the owner of the page.

I attempted to reach out to Khan to allow her to try and set the record straight on the constant drama that seems to be surrounding her shop, but she refused and subsequently threatened to sue.

In the meantime, Khan is hiring, so if you know anybody looking for a job…

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

tyrants in the information age

I was recently added to a Facebook group called “Heavenly Creatures……Keeping Them Accountable.” (HCKTA)  

The group was started a year ago after a handful of people accused Heavenly Creatures of questionable conduct.

Here are some excerpts from the group’s mandate:

“ the people who give their hard earned the many, many pets they help, and most of all the animals, as it them we are all here to help and protect.

"We, as a group are looking to have the organization of Heavenly Creatures be accountable for all their donations to be properly receipted to the donors(as required by law). We are also looking for accountability and transparency of the spending of those donations through a regulated board and accountant to ensure the disbursement of those donations are best spent for the welfare of the animals they are entrusted to care for.

"However it has been found that anytime anybody dares to question any of the actions whether they are a supporter , a volunteer or just a concerned citizen, the organization goes out of its way to remove, block, or try to discredit these people. This is not the way for this group to have it's image improve in the eyes of the public, so that being said, we are striving for what is sooo desperately needed – ACCOUNTABILITY [sic].”

After perusing the posts in the group, it became evident that the active members of the group visit the page to take part in the defamation of Heavenly Creatures, referring to it as “kinda cult like”, accusing the volunteers of being brainwashed, and insinuating that the organization is filtering funds through another charity.

When these members convene over a post on the group page, they seem to feed off each other’s denigrations, whether toward Heavenly Creatures or another member of the group.
While it seems unusual to hear of adults willingly partaking in online wars, a 2014 survey by Pew Research Center revealed that nearly 75% of American adults have been a part of online harassment. 

So, what is it about being part of a Facebook group that makes people want to jump on a comment like a herd of animals? 

Social media has long been a gateway to enhanced methods of communication, but the comfort of a screen certainly seems to allow for much more animosity towards one another than face-to-face communication.

Most Internet tyrants claim freedom of speech when finding themselves in an online struggle, in an attempt to justify their harsh words and belligerent behaviour.

I don’t pretend to know much about the psychology of the online harasser, I can only speculate as to what would possess another adult to attack another individual - a stranger - from behind a computer screen.

Groups like “Heavenly Creatures…Keeping Them Accountable” are often created with the intention of helping and/or serving a community, but instead of offering education or constructive criticism, the members get together in an online forum to insult, harass, and point fingers.

Many of the active members of the group have been banned from other organizations’ Facebook pages for confrontational behaviour, sometimes extending beyond Facebook.

Clearly unimpressed with my comments in support of Heavenly Creatures, one of the active HCKTA Facebook group members sent an e-mail to the founder of a local publication for which I write, accusing me of destroying its reputation.

 If it weren't for organizations like Heavenly Creatures, many animals wouldn't have a fighting chance.  The unsubstantiated allegations made by the HCKTA group have taken a considerable toll on the organization and its founder.

“They say they want transparency and accountability, but we don't know what they mean; Heavenly Creatures is already a registered charity that issues tax receipts.  Our financial information, like every other charity's, is available on the CRA website,” says Jessica Rendell, President and founder of Heavenly Creatures. “We have nothing to hide.  None of the Facebook group members  – almost all of whom are strangers to us – have ever seen our books nor have they made an attempt to call or e-mail us for information.”

Heavenly Creatures’ financial reports are available to the public, and have been for quite some time, at this link

As far as I can tell, the group has no evidence to support their allegations.  Jessica graciously offered to let me look through the organization’s financial records that have yet to be posted online.   Predictably, I found nothing to indicate neither embezzling nor fraudulent activity. 
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary also went through their financial records last fall at the recommendation of several HCKTA group members and also came away empty handed.

Still, the group members continue their tirade against Heavenly Creatures.

But, hey - they can say what they want.  That’s the beauty of freedom of speech, right?

Well, freedom of speech doesn’t grant you immunity from libel charges.

After discussing the situation with a member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, he had this to say:

“We do not have legislation in this province, so if we were to investigate complaints [of libel], they would be done under the criminal code.  The criminal code has been recently amended to adapt to changing technologies.  The “Protecting Canadians from online crime” act under Bill C-13 gives police the tools to facilitate the investigation of crime that involves electronic evidence.

“There are also other criminal code offences that would capture certain bullying and cyberbullying activities such as criminal harassment, threats, false messages, harassing calls, etc.”

My question is:  When it comes to the Internet, where do we draw the line?