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When we were kids, the costumes that we wore were free of any sexual context, like a princess who wore long-sleeves or Spiderman, which was completely body-covering. But as we grew older, women’s costumes became more sexualized, and we’re unable to find many costumes that don’t contain the word “sexy” in the title. With Halloween approaching, I think about how sexualized this holiday has come with my growing age, but also how Halloween can also be a night that sexual assault frequently happens.

In some men’s minds, women wearing provocative clothing can mean that she is looking for sexual contact. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that women are looking for anything sexual just because of her clothing choice. Another belief surrounding sexual assault is that it is committed by strangers.  In fact, 80.5% of sexual assault cases are committed by someone the victim knows, and this is oftentimes an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, a friend, or a significant other (RAINN).

In 2018, a man was arrested in Richmond Hill after he sexually assaulted a young girl on Halloween (Global News).  In 2019, a 16-year old girl in British Columbia reported to police that she was sexually assaulted while walking through a corn maze on Halloween (CBC). Also in 2019, a girl in Maryland reported that she was sexually assaulted by a man on Halloween (NBC Washington). One article I read had a group of girls who were walking home after a night of partying and were followed home by a car full of men who were catcalling them for their “sexy” costumes (ShoutOut!). With these few examples being shared, it is not unimaginable that these scenarios are more common on Halloween night.

Let’s set the record straight on consent though. Consent is not given through clothing or by your instinct of “just knowing” that that’s what the other person wants. Consent needs to be given freely, without pressure but also needs to be verbal and physical communication from both parties. It cannot be given if the person is intoxicated, unconscious, or unable to even give their consent. Before engaging in any type of sexual activity, it needs to be made clear that both partners are willing, comfortable, and in agreement to engage in the activity. If there is any hesitation or discomfort, then it should not go further since this is no longer consent. Consent goes for all kinds of activities from something as simple as hitting on someone else to sexual intercourse.

The University of Windsor’s Sexual Misconduct Office runs a campaign each year called “Cats Against Catcalls” where they educate others on the statistics of sexual assault and how it is more likely to happen during Halloween due to the many societal rape myths regarding clothing in relation to sexual assault. The Bystander Initiative is also involved in this event as they are trying to promote pro-social bystanders on campus through this campaign. This event is very successful in helping students understand the importance of consent in any circumstance as well as red flags to what a predator attempts to do. I found that by assisting in this event, students were actually interested in learning about how to help others if they see someone that is potentially getting sexually harassed.

Halloween is supposed to be a night full of treats, so go and have fun! But make sure you’re being safe and asking for consent!

If you are looking for support regarding sexual assault, please contact the University of Windsor’s Sexual Misconduct Office by emailing: svsupport@uwindsor.ca

Shaye is a third-year Women and Gender studies student, who is very interested in writing about feminism. She is involved with the Sexual Misconduct Office, the Women and Gender Studies student association, and she is also a writer for HerCampus UWindsor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching Netflix and hanging out with her bearded dragon, Minerva.
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