Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Female perpetrators shatter social stereotypes of sexual assault, expert says

When women are charged with sexual assault it flies in the face of society's expectations about aggressors and victims, according to an Ottawa law professor.

"We're used to hearing stories about men sexually abusing women or younger men; we're not used to hearing stories about a female teacher and a student. So it's like a train wreck: people are just drawn in, they can't take their eyes away," says Constance Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in sexual assault legislation.

Our ingrained "cultural script" often dictates than men gain points for having sex, while women lose points, Backhouse says. As a result, the tendency is to dismiss cases of women sexually assaulting people as somehow less troubling.

"A lot of times people hear about these very isolated cases of an adult woman having sexual activities or conduct with a younger man, and they jump to conclusions and they say, 'Well, what's the harm in that?' And they joke about it," she says.

"We shouldn't be dismissive, and we shouldn't laugh and joke about it."  (more...)

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