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The NHL needs to address rape culture

"In light of the ongoing investigation involving Patrick Kane, he will no longer be a spokesperson for the launch of EA SPORTS NHL 16. He will not appear on the EA SPORTS NHL 16 cover nor participate in other EA SPORTS NHL 16 promotional activities."

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Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

EA SPORTS released the above statement on August 12th, ten days after Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane allegedly raped a woman at his home in Hamburg, New York.

As news began to trickle out that there was an investigation into Kane's actions that night, social media exploded with people proclaiming Kane's innocence. The owner of SkyBar, where Kane and the woman reportedly met, even went so far as to say she was being very flirtatious with Kane. While he admitted that he wasn't sure it was the same whom woman he saw flirting was the one who allegedly was raped, statements that intentionally or unintentionally discredit accusers are devastatingly common. Even if she had been flirtatious, this is not an instigation of her own assault.

The NHL and Kane's agent Pat Brisson have been tight-lipped about the situation, citing they are gathering reports and watching the situation closely. There really can't be any more said from those who employ and work for Kane when no arrest has been made and no new information has been released.

Once again, the waiting game continues for a case of sexual and physical assault, just like with Semyon Varlamov in 2013; Slava Voynov in 2014; and the alleged sexual assault of an employee by Mike Ribeiro, who claims the charges against him have no merit, and was since awarded a new contract from the Nashville Predators. On top of the sexual assault, both Ribeiro and his wife's alleged actions towards the nanny were continuous mental abuse.


Unfortunately, we live in a culture where many men aren’t as aware of what consent really means as they should be. In my experience, when a man asks a woman to follow him to his home or another establishment and she says no, he hears "convince me." When a woman laughs off the suggestion, a man hears yes. When a woman decides to follow with no intention of doing anything sexual with that man, that is where things get dicey. A man's ego can become so bruised when a woman does not want any contact with him, when a woman "goes with the flow" it often leads to men assuming that that woman is up for anything.

The pervasiveness of situations like these are the result of what has come to be known as "rape culture."

When I attended University I did so at a commuter school in Scarborough, meaning residence was not party central every weekend like many other large universities across Canada. For the most part, my group of friends and I would head to downtown Toronto on a Friday or Saturday night and go to the student bars.

These bars were frequented by students but a large population of business men and women would frequent the same places. Plenty of times men would hit on the younger student crowd at these bars and aggressively try to take them home. Many times young women followed these men promising more drinks and a free cab ride to their homes only to be told angrily to leave immediately if they weren't going to partake in sexual activity with them after many attempts.

This was not shocking to me, and it probably isn't shocking to anyone reading this. The rule of thumb is to never go home with anyone you didn't want to sleep with. Even if those things were not discussed, the man taking you back to his place has already decided what you'll be doing, without your consent.

Lyndsay Anderson worked in student residences for 13 years in Nova Scotia. During a TedTalk in 2014, Anderson spoke about rape culture and the way it was perpetuated by students and leaders in their school community.

"In a rape culture we're surrounded by images, language, media representations, laws, that perpetuate and validate rape. Sexualized violence is seen as something that's 'just the way things are,'" Anderson said.

"After living under the same roof with university students for the past 13 years, I've been made acutely aware that when it comes to sexual activity consent is not well understood by students. Sexualized violence is occurring at alarming rates on our campuses. Women between the ages of 18 and 21 are four times more likely to be assaulted than women in any other age group. And female university students are at a greater risk of being assaulted than their non-university peers."

Anderson described one of the more graphic and disturbing events she experienced while being a Residence Life Manager.

"Y is for your sister, O is for 'oh so tight', U is for underage, N is for 'no consent' and G: this one varies depending on which end of the country you're on. This was a chant heard during orientation welcome weeks this past September on two different campuses. Right here in Halifax, it was a chant lead by 80 student orientation leaders to nearly 400 incoming first-year students. An enthusiastic chant about underage, non-consensual sex. About rape."

It's not just the chant, but the way rape is used to describe a tough exam, "I got raped by that exam," or when people yell out "Rape!" when they're being carried, or hugged by a friend aggressively. The word has been desensitized from its extremely serious state to being used as a joke. No wonder so many women are not taken seriously.

Within an educational institution, this type of vulgar chant made its way through Canada and out of the mouths of young students who belted it out and laughed it off. Using these types of chants softens the idea of rape. It makes light of an extreme personal violation by glorifying the sexual assault of a woman who said no.

And this culture doesn't end in collegiate or professional settings either, existing also in junior hockey. In 2014, screenshots of Kings prospect Jake Marchment using offensive, sexist language on dating app Tinder were released. Other organizations, such as the Gatineau Olympiques and the Cobourg Cougars have been involved in this "toxic" culture, with officials slow to react.

In the present case, it's not just the alleged victim's word against Kane's; it's all of Kane's "boys" who are coming out to support him and refuse to believe anything happened without consent.

The latest to come out of the woodwork is family friend (of course) who is an off-duty police officer and has worked for Kane for five years (of course). Lieut. Thomas English believes Kane's conduct prior to the alleged rape was nothing out of the ordinary and the two had a mutual agreement in place to travel to Kane's house that night.

There are a few serious problems with this public account.

First, he's a family friend and has worked for Kane for five years. Second, he did not enter the house therefore he is in no position to comment on whether he thinks anything happened or not. Third, officer English is under investigation for abandoning his half-shift the night of August 2nd to be with Kane.

In other words, this witness did not witness much.

The alleged victim is being forgotten in a sea of people with their pitchforks in hand ready to defend Kane because he has status, privilege, and is an elite NHL player. Kane has not yet made any personal statement refuting the events of August 2nd, though his attorney, Paul Cambria, is quick to get into Facebook arguments over the case and has spoken for him.

It's tough to stand up and say, "This man who is a king in this town raped me." It’s highly unlikely that it was the alleged victim's plan to falsely accuse Kane of rape so her friends could console her, so her parents and relatives would know she was so severely violated, and for this to turn into a media circus. She has remained anonymous and is likely traumatized by the events that allegedly took place without her consent.

I can't remember a time the NHL’s problems with consent and physical abuse were so magnified. Given that sexual assault is a strikingly underreported crime, it raises the question: how many other cases do we not know about?

When your athletes are continually in the news for their extracurricular activities that should be a breach of their contract, it shows every fan of the sport it's OK to abuse other people. It perpetuates the idea that these athletes are untouchable because they're rich and somewhat famous. Thinking of yourself as invincible, you lend yourself permission to be above the law.

However this situation decides to play out, there have been far too many sexual and physical assaults within professional sport recently. The brutality of these assaults is indicative of a lack of basic respect for a woman's human rights.

This is not the culture I want to support when I watch the Chicago Blackhawks. The NHL has a responsibility to make sure these attacks never happen again.

The NHL needs to step up and do something, as well as all 30 NHL teams. You can't ignore the issues that continue to present themselves. You can't just wait for the season to start so everyone can forget about the forward who allegedly raped a woman in his home. You can't praise a man for getting off to a great start and overcoming obstacles when he allegedly sexually assaulted his nanny while his children were in the room.

I can't live with that, and I hope you can't either.