Recently in Toronto, a young man was sexually assaulted by 4 women upon leaving a nightclub. The women offered the victim a ride home, but instead drove him to a parking lot near Queen St. W and Spadina, where they reportedly sexually assaulted him. The perpetrators have not been found.
In response to this event, TheStar.com, the online version of arguably Canada's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, issued an article written by Rosie Dimanno entitled “Sexual assault case involving four female suspects a bizarre anomaly.” (Read the full article here.)
The statements made in this article are morally reprehensible. They marginalize victims of sexual assault, harming victims and arguably reducing the chances that victims will come forward and get the help they need. and it is therefore imperative that The Toronto Star removes the article in question, apologizes for its content and takes appropriate action to correct Dimanno's actions.
Dimanno’s article attempts to reaffirm the sexist notions that victimhood is exclusively female and that males are sexual creatures who must “enjoy” any sexual experience, even assault. Furthermore, it marginalizes the trauma experienced by victims of unwanted touching as “merely annoying.” These notions are communicated on an extremely public venue: The Star, as one of Canada’s largest news sites, has millions of readers.
Dimanno’s inflammatory remarks not only dissuade future victims from seeking help, but demean their suffering, arguably leading to feelings of alienation, rejection, and ultimately fault for their trauma. According to Statistics Canada, only 10% of sexual assaults are reported to the police—we must tell The Star that we as readers will not tolerate content that threatens to decrease these reports even further.
DIMANNO “RATES” SEXUAL ASSAULTS, ATTEMPTS TO DISCREDIT VICTIMS
Firstly, the author marginalizes assault victims based on the author’s perceived severity of the victims’ experiences. Dimanno attempts to differentiate between “unwanted touching” and what she considers to be real sexual assault. The Criminal Code of Canada defines assault, including sexual assault, as any force applied to another person without their consent. The law, therefore, seems to disagree with Dimanno’s definition, as does the World Health Organization. Dimanno regards assault situations of unwanted touching as “merely annoying,” undermining the severe emotional trauma experienced by victims whose safety and mental health have been compromised by sexual assaults that may not have caused explicit physical harm. For the victim of a sexual assault who did not have bones broken or forced intercourse, this article may say “your problems aren’t important.”
Dimanno's discriminatory argument excuses the disgusting behaviour of sexual attackers—as though their behaviour is somehow tolerable, if a minor nuisance.
Let Dimanno and The Star know that it is never justifiable to tell a sexual assault victim that their experience isn’t important or valid, or to define an “acceptable” level of emotional trauma experienced based on the physical aspects of an assault.
DIMANNO IMPLEMENTS SEXIST JUDGMENT TO MARGINALIZE MALE VICTIMS
Dimanno routinely condescends to the victim for his experience simply because he is male:
“Sexual assault, you say? Lucky, other guys say … A fivesome and he didn’t even have to pay for it.”
This statement, like Dimanno's aforementioned rating scale, cruelly undermines the victim’s personal trauma. Regardless of the gender, number, or physical attractiveness of the perpetrators or the victim, sexual assault should never be dismissed as something to enjoy.
Dimanno then uses a prodding tone at the victim for waiting to report the crime:
“[The assault] allegedly happened a couple weeks ago, [though it was] only publicized by police this weekend … perhaps the victim pondered his options for a while, perchance needed some coaxing to report, or grew increasingly angry as the days passed.”
Many sources, such as the PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Center, report that male victims are less likely to report their sexual victimhood than are females. When a male victim is publicly mocked, even by journalists, for experiencing sexual assault, is it really any wonder that they may be initially resistant to reporting their trauma? It is no one’s place to scrutinize the amount of time it takes for a victim to report their experience, least of all a journalist who admittedly doesn’t know the victim or even all of the circumstances.
Though Dimanno states “sexual assault is no laughing matter,” she uses a sardonic, joking tone towards the victim throughout the article, as though he should be appreciative of his "lucky fivesome" circumstances, rather than report the crime. There are many psychological reports concluding that men who are sexually assaulted are likely to develop emotional disorders. The National Centre of PTSD is one such source.
The myth that males cannot experience or should enjoy sexual assault—as well as the stigma that would be associated with a male who physically fought back against female assaulters—significantly reduces the chances that these victims will get the help they deserve.
The author’s degradation of the victim for his sex is not only cruel, but seemingly self-aware. She sarcastically notes, “Mustn’t be seen to make light of an alleged sexual crime just because the victim is male … despite the obvious snickering quotient.”
Together, let’s show Dimanno that there should be no “snickering quotient” in any sexual assault. Everyone--regardless of gender identity--deserves to feel safe from sexual assault.
HOW WE CAN HELP
1: SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION
Dimanno’s article is inflammatory and degrading—not just for the victim in question, but for sufferers of sexual assault everywhere.
The article in question lacks in not only basic human decency, but the minimal research and understanding expected from a journalist. Plenty of sources are available that define sexual assault and that outline the emotional trauma of victims, regardless of gender identity or severity of physical assault; there is no excuse for Rosie Dimanno's ignorance.
Together, let's remind Rosie Dimanno and the Toronto Star:
-Every person, regardless of gender identity, deserves to live without fear of sexual assault.
-Every victim, regardless of gender identity, deserves to be applauded for the bravery it takes to report a sexual crime.
-Every victim, regardless of gender identity, deserves the security of knowing that their assault will be taken seriously, whether or not it results in physical bodily damage or penetration.
By signing this petition, we are telling The Star that we refuse to lend credibility or readership to a news source that implements sexist, cruel, and misleading content. We must hold The Star accountable for its usage of the power of the press: if The Star cannot screen its content for sexism, prejudice, and other unnecessary forms of cruelty, it will not receive our business. We demand that The Star remove the article in question and issue an apology for the emotional damages the offending article has caused for sexual assault victims.
2: STOP SUBSCRIBING TO THE TORONTO STAR
This issue is not the only time that the Star has used faulty, immoral journalism. The Star also uses one-sided research to make biased claims against teachers, rather than posting neutral and objective stories, as well as posts unattributed content from other news sources. The Star apologized for their "lapse in judgment" for stealing from the Globe and Mail--let's show them they still need to improve.
Unsubscribe from the Toronto Star and tell them they've lost or will lose your business if things don't change. Email the public editor at firstname.lastname@example.org!
3: COMMENT ON THE OFFENDING ARTICLE
Comment on the sexist, offensive article and tell the Toronto Star you have signed a petition to have this article removed. Link them to this petition.
To comment on an article, click "Report an Error" underneath the article title on the right-hand side.
Thank you so much for your help!
WE CAN SHOW THE TORONTO STAR THAT WE WON'T TOLERATE CRUEL, IMMORAL JOURNALISM OR DISRESPECT TO SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS.
- Editor of Toronto Star/TheStar.com
- Managing Editor of Toronto Star/TheStar.com
- Toronto Star/TheStar.com
Bureau of Accuracy/Public Editor
- City Editor at Toronto Star/TheStar.com
- Journalist, Toronto Star/TheStar.com
The article written by Rosie Dimanno called "Sexual assault cases involving four female suspects a bizarre anomaly" is a thoroughly demeaning, cruel, and sexist article. Rosie Dimanno's choice to invalidate the claims of sexual assault victims based on gender or the physical severity of the circumstances endangers victims everywhere, shaming them for their experiences and reducing their chances of coming forward. Sexual assault is no laughing matter, and there is no excuse for an author's cruel and discriminatory "jokes" to be presented as journalism.
The Toronto Star has many readers who are victims of sexual assault, as well as many readers who are supporters, friends, and family members of victims. Alienating these readers can and will lose their respect and business, and more importantly, will damage their self-esteem, impede their recovery, and reduce the chances they will seek help, for fear they will be verbally attacked on a grand scale by a journalist.
As a supporter of sexual assault victims, I am utterly disgusted by The Toronto Star's decision to publish an article that attacks victims of assault for their gender or their experience. Rosie Dimanno's statements about gender and victim suffering are not only cruel, but unfounded. A plethora of resources are easily available to prove the statements made in this article to be wrong; there is no excuse for such ignorance. I and my friends and loved ones will not tolerate this blatant disregard for compassion and honest journalism.
It is essential that this discriminatory, sexist article be removed from the Toronto Star, an apology for Rosie Dimanno's statements be issued, and appropriate actions be taken by The Toronto Star to ensure that future journalists such as Rosie Dimanno will thoroughly research their claims and will not make cruel, all-encompassing statements that endanger the welfare of victims everywhere.
Please do not let us down.
Sherri Liska started this petition with a single signature, and now has 309 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.