When I’m working out on the ergometer at the gym, I watch one of my favourite quiz shows. It’s been on televison for years, it’s British and not on television here in Canada so that means there are thousands of episodes that I’ve not seen. I enjoy watching the program and find it just engrossing enough to take my attention away from the demands of the machine.

Yesterday I watched an episode where, after the answer to a question was given, some filler information about the person mentioned, a golfer, was given. They stated that the golfer made complaints about the fact that when he went back to the club house women would pinch his ass, he made a complaint about this finding the behaviour intrusive. Then the host and others make jokes about, “What, he didn’t like it?”

I gasped.

And immediately remembered.

A man with an intellectual disability was referred to me because he had aggressively pushed a woman with a disability away from him. She had been bruised by the ensuing fall and the staff were very concerned about her safety. He was considered much more disabled than she and the thought was that he might need to be moved because of the danger he posed.

In the investigation it was discovered that this woman was sneaking out of her room at night and sexually assaulting this man. She knew that he would not have the ability to report her. She knew that he was vulnerable to her ability to get into his room undetected. She had used considerable force, in one case breaking two of his ribs with her knees. The staff were aware of this, but it didn’t come up until well into the assessment. They hadn’t thought it relevant. But then, they hadn’t thought of it as assault either. In fact, they joked about it.

When asked about this mans skills regarding abuse prevention and reporting, the staff laughed and said, and this is a direct quote, “I think we just need to teach him how to smoke afterwards.”

It was funny to them.

Funny.

Of course I don’t approve of his use of force to push the woman away, but I also don’t approve of sexual assault no matter the gender of the individual assaulted. What’s difficult about that to understand?

In the end I don’t think I ever convinced the staff that a crime had been committed against the man who was clearly not consenting to the sexual touch and behaviour of the woman who forced herself on him. I don’t think they ever really understood what they were condoning.

We did stop the assaults.

His aggression stopped the moment he felt safe.

We worked at teaching him ways to keep himself safe, we taught him abuse prevention skills.

They refused to refer her to the offender clinic stating that I had over-reacted to her behaviour. I don’t think I did then, I still don’t think I did now. I think she was poorly served, she had a right to treatment, she had a right to be taken seriously.

But then, on a game show, where a man was mocked for not ‘liking’ unwanted touch, I’m not sure that we are anywhere near understanding what sexual assault is and the roll that power plays and the way power can shift.

We all have power.

We all can abuse it.

End of story.

I can still hear people clapping and laughing at the jokes made about the man, his butt and unwanted touch.

Can you hear the sound of my head shaking with confusion?

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