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Local advocacy group encourages candid conversation about sexual violence, rape culture

Rape culture isn't just a reality on Canada's university campuses. A local group fighting violence against women says it's a pervasive issue affecting all of society in the western world.

The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) said it sees sexually violent comments and sexual assault as equally troubling, because they're both part of what the group calls a continuum of violence that is being deemed acceptable in our society.

"Rape culture is, unfortunately, incredibly pervasive and it's embedded in our culture and I think that piece around calling it culture points to that embeddedness and it's not something that is just happening on campuses," said Erin Leigh, the executive director of OCTEVAW.

She said it is happening in popular culture and in the media and it's made evident by the fact victims are afraid to come forward, primarily because of the stigmatization that comes along with reporting sexual violence and being blamed for what happened.

Leigh said a society that accepts jokes and banter about sexual violence grants permission for physical acts of sexual violence to occur.

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