Joel James Conway was arrested and charged by Saanich Police Department on April 20th 2017, with break-and-enter and sexual assault against a woman he knew. Conway was a recognized advocate fighting against sexual violence through the Fortress Foundation, an organization he helped start.
As there are more men who are doing antiviolence work which is either engaging boys and men in violence prevention or bystander intervention it’s more important than ever that they are held accountable to women and the community they purport to serve. Men who claim to be ending gender-violence specialists are given a lot of credibility in the community as there is a lot of hope that men will own their role in men’s violence against women.
It’s important to note that in this case, Conway was not only arrested but also charged, which is rare. The lack of charges in sexual assault reports was highlighted in the investigative report Unfounded by The Globe and Mail which looked at how police in Canada dismiss one in five sexual assault claims as baseless. BWSS urges that, especially in cases like these that the charges are not reduced or plea bargained.
It raises the question; do some men use this work as an opportunity for them to abuse women with impunity?
In December 2016, Vancouver Police Department Detective Constable James Fisher was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation, one count of sexual assault, one count of breach of trust and one count of attempt to obstruct justice. This is another example, of a man in power, who worked specifically as part of the VPD’s counter-exploitation unit who exploited his position of trust.
This is part of a culture of rape that allows men to get away with violence and blames victims and survivors for the violence done to them. Men in positions of authority should be held even more accountable because their stature and position of trust they hold in the community. It is an atrocious betrayal to our communities and to women when men who promote themselves as advocates against violence and exploitation commit these crimes. Our hope is that real justice will be served in these cases and not whitewashed and charges reduced because of their so called activism.