Once again, the Toronto Police are dispensing advice to young women about how they should dress to avoid assault or unwanted looks.
Undeterred by the public backlash last year, when an officer told York University students to avoid “dressing like sluts” if they want to avoid sexual assault, another officer has told a private school principal that “Students, especially females, should consider not wearing their school uniform when riding the TTC.”. This advice came in response to an incident where the suspect looked up the skirts of two girls on their way to school in uniform.
I’m really not sure how many times the Toronto Police need to be told that this rhetoric is entirely inappropriate. This is a classic case of victim-blaming, where assaulted or harassed women are blamed for ‘prompting’ their own attacks. I’m especially disturbed that this advice was doled out to school-age girls who are already impressionable and under a massive amount of peer pressure. With this advice, however well-meaning, the Toronto Police are setting the stage for girls who don’t follow this advice being blamed for their own attacks. With this kind of mentality, the police feel they’ve done their due diligence in informing the girls what can be done to prevent assault. What would actually help? Trying harder to catch the perverts.
It remains that no matter what these girls wear or how they act, there will always be people who feel the need to comment, stare or assault. Am I suggesting we stop taking precautions? Absolutely not. By all means, women (and all people) should be vigilant when traveling on the TTC or walking alone. But, instead of blaming the victim, why not move towards catching criminals and putting the onus on the offenders. The more we blame the victim, the less likely women and other victims of assault and harassment are to come forward and report the incident.