Letter: Understanding victim blaming

I write this letter in response to the Aug. 9 article All criminal charges dropped against Innisfail town councillor, by Paul Cowley. I work at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre based in Red Deer. We are a centre that provides support services for individuals who are affected by sexual violence.

While I do not have a direct connection to this case, I feel I must express my reaction to and how I perceived this article. While I do understand the purpose and intent of covering the dropping of criminal charges against a town councillor (both newsworthy and timely), I have a very difficult time understanding the expansive amount of word space (copy) given to Mr. Donnie Hill to clear his name (in his own words) and promote his candidacy in next fall’s municipal election.

To me, it is unprecedented to provide an accused and criminally charged individual 15 paragraphs in a news story to vocally, unfiltered and publicly tell his version of the story. How is this story not biased? It really reads to me as victim blaming as the victim (the female who is unidentified) is completely voiceless in this article. Can you imagine what it would feel like being the female involved in this case seeing this on the front page?

Here’s a definition of victim blaming for more of a understanding:

“Victim blaming is the attitude which suggests that the victim rather than the perpetrator bears responsibility for the assault. Victim-blaming occurs when it is assumed that an individual did something to provoke the violence by actions, words, or dress. Many people would rather believe that someone caused their own misfortune because it makes the world seem a safer place, but this is a major reason that survivors do not report their assaults.”

From the original story’s quotes, you can see the language used surrounds innocence, clearing allegations, the truth and justice, all from the sole view of Mr. Hill.

You have allowed Mr. Hill the ability to create his own narrative, his version of the truth, how he wants to be perceived in the public realm, especially in the community and town he is running for council in. I am very disappointed a platform or rather a soap box like this was offered in a news article to someone charged with serious criminal charges. I really feel like this was a misstep and lacks journalistic integrity.

Sarah Maetche is the communications and administration manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Centre.