by Sara Casselman
When Bill Cosby performed in Kitchener on Tuesday, folks organized an alternative show – Voices Carry – to show their support of survivors and to raise money for the work that the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region and Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region is doing.
In Hamilton, the Woman Abuse Working Group is organizing a peaceful gathering to show our support for survivors. More details here.
This is Sara’s speech from that night, originally posted on SASC’s website:
Sexual violence has been all over the news lately, with stories of Cosby, Ghomeshi, and other powerful men accused of assaulting multiple women. We’ve seen an outpouring of support for survivors of sexual violence. We’ve also seen a number of myths about sexual violence surface.
One of these myths is that women lie about being assaulted. In truth, false reporting is rare and accounts for about 2-4 percent of sexual assault reports. It’s much more common that a woman would never disclose her experience than it is that she would lie about it. 90% of survivors of sexual violence never report their experience to police.
I’ve heard many people say “innocent until proven guilty” as a flat response to allegations against Cosby. I challenge those people to really consider those words. Do you actually mean this? “I’m going to assume all those women are liars until something proves they’re not.”
The big picture is that survivors are hearing these dismissive responses. They’re hearing what people say about women who dare to accuse powerful men of sexual assault and harassment.
When someone dismisses them because they liked the Cosby Show, when they call them (all 30 of them) crazy, what are they telling the women around them about how they would react if they disclosed they’d been assaulted?
Here’s what I know. There’s a systemic issue of sexual violence against women and children in our world, in our nation, and in our community. I know that approximately one in four women in Canada have experienced sexual assault. I know that Waterloo Regional Police Service responded to 563 sexual assault reports in 2013, which represents about 10% of the sexual assaults in our community each year.
I know that we often fail survivors of sexual assault – by blaming them, shaming them, attacking them publicly, and by doubting their experience. Voices Carry was an opportunity for our community to counter those responses and we rose to the occasion. I’m so proud of what we achieved together with Voices Carry. The collective message we sent was simple but profound. You’re not alone. We believe you. We care.
So thank you to everyone involved in Voices Carry – organizers, performers, sponsors, volunteers and attendees – for creating a safe space for survivors.
“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes!”
Sara Cassleman is the Public Relations & Operations Manager for the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region