Sexual Assault Centres Addressing Human Trafficking in Ontario

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By the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres

The sexual exploitation of persons through human trafficking is a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls. Marginalized and exploited populations of women – for example, youth, Aboriginal women and girls, and women with limited or no status in Canada – are most vulnerable to being targeted. Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan identifies that there is a “need for a more coordinated response to human trafficking”; further, a number of different sectors need to be involved “in order to assist victims with everything from safe housing to navigating immigration processes”.

We also recognized the importance of a collaborative approach to human trafficking. As sexual assault centres, we shared concerns on how to do collaborative work effectively in our own communities and across multiple sectors while maintaining a feminist anti-oppression and intersectional approach to the work.

Sexual Assault Centres in Ontario: Competencies in Addressing Human Trafficking

While all Ontario sexual assault centres support sexual violence survivors and share similarities in their programs and services, centres across the province are autonomous. Sexual Assault Centre staff and volunteers engaged in this work, however, all agree that sexual violence against women and children is power-based, gender-based, structurally supported and therefore political.

Violence includes the human trafficking of women. Particularly, sexual assault centres are interested in supporting women and girls who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. A recent report from the U.N. crime-fighting office noted that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited sexually2.

In many ways, Sexual Assault Centres are well-positioned to address human trafficking in Ontario.

Sexual Assault Centres transferable competencies include the following:

  1. Centres are committed to respond to all survivors of sexual violence with whom they come into contact, including women experiencing sexual violence in the context of human trafficking.
  2. Centres have considerable and longstanding expertise in working with women surviving sexual violence from a trauma-informed, anti-oppression, intersectional framework.
  3. Centres understand that different women experience sexual violence differently. For example, a woman’s race, religion, socioeconomic status, age or sexual identity affects her level of risk for being targeted for acts of violence, as well as resources accessible to her in her healing from violence. This framework for support acknowledges that different women present different confidentiality, safety, shelter and access needs, and compels Sexual Assault Centres to respond to these needs.
  4. Feminist counselling approaches used at Sexual Assault centres include “the ability of workers to assert and reinforce boundaries in ways that do not exploit power differences between clients and staff…and the ability of workers to apply ongoing critical analyses of larger societal systems and institutions”¹.
  5. Centres have historically exercised the capacity, motivation and resourcefulness to support survivors of sexual violence who choose not to engage with the criminal justice system as a means of resolving their experience of violation. Sexual Assault Centre workers instead agree that mandatory reporting to police can promote overreliance on a current legal system which (1) does not effectively resolve most reported sexual assault cases, and (2) can alienate or outright prohibit access to support for marginalized populations of survivors², including survivors who are in conflict with the law. While it is important that sexual assault survivors have access to the legal system, women also need alternatives. This position can be very useful to survivors of human trafficking, who may elect not to engage with the criminal justice system, may face barriers, or may feel ambivalent about accessing the criminal justice system. Currently, many human trafficking initiatives in Ontario have a strong criminal justice focus; or prioritize the prosecution of traffickers ahead of support for trafficking survivors. In this, Sexual Assault Centres bring increased capacity to community work with survivors who choose not to report.
  6. Centres continue to exercise the capacity and motivation to advocate for women survivors individually (that is, on a case by case basis) and systemically.
  7. Centres have the capacity, motivation and expertise to challenge policy criteria (i.e. criteria for admission into a women’s shelter, to acquire Special Priority on housing listings, to apply for Ontario Works) meant to support women experiencing violence in their regions. Women who are trafficked often do not meet these criteria due to lack of documentation or identification. Motivated and experienced advocates, such as Sexual Assault centre staff, can support women in challenging outdated policy/criteria and achieving these supports.
  8. Centres agree that “survivors are at the centre of the work”3, and that this framework for supporting survivors of violence can be extended to developing specific supports for trafficked women. Support, in this context, includes activities and services facilitated by sexual assault centres, as well as larger lobbying action for legal and systemic changes that support survivors of trafficking. Sexual Assault Centres acknowledge that survivors of sexual violence “know from experience…where the gaps and traps are in systems and policies”4. In this, Centres are interested in understanding the needs of trafficked women and creating regional responses that address these needs.

Whether a Centre currently has direct experience supporting survivors of human trafficking in your region or not, it likely identifies with the above competencies and operationalizes them within its services for survivors of sexual violence.

These competencies are all applicable to ─ and useful in ─ addressing the needs of human trafficking survivors in Ontario. Continue reading

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SACHA’s Online Pilot Completed

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Our pilot immediate Online Text/Chat support is now finished. Thanks to the folks who have used it, we’ve learned a lot, and need some time to regroup and figure out how to continue to provide this service to survivors and their allies.

Stay tuned for new start dates; until then, survivors and their allies to call SACHA’s 24-Hour Support Line which is continuing to work as usual, at 905-525-4162.

Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience

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“Telling Our Stories” is a multi-lingual one-of-a-kind graphic novel created by immigrant women, to support immigrant women.

Join us for an interactive workshop to explore the graphic novel’s creation and stories as well as our own stories and strengths.

We’ll have free copies of the graphic novel for participants in multiple languages! Come meet other awesome incredible women in Hamilton.

Where: Hamilton Public Library, Central Library Wentworth Room – 55 York Boulevard, Hamilton ON

When: Sunday, September 10th
2pm: Welcome
2:30pm: Workshop begins
3:30: Food and socializing

Childcare and bus tickets provided. Please email if you need interpretation or any accommodations – crickett@sacha.ca

Presented by SACHA, Centre de santé, and Hamilton Public Library as part of the Hamilton Reads series. #HPLreads

Very thankful for the support of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and MOFIF – the Ontarian Movement of Francophone Immigrant Women and the graphic novel’s funder – The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

Hamilton Reads to End Sexual Violence

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This year’s Hamilton Reads (#HPLreads) book is Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People.

SACHA has partnered with the Hamilton Public Library to offer workshops and event in September and October!

You don’t have to have read Zoe’s books to be able to attend the events.

Thursday, September 7th at 4pm – Zine Making
Central Library – 2nd Floor Program Room

Create a “Messages of Support for Survivors”-themed collaborative zine using varied and art-making techniques in this two-hour workshop. No prior experience needed. Supplies provided. Drop in. All genders/ages welcome.

Sunday, September 10th at 2pm – Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience
Central Library

A unique graphic novel written by immigrant women to support immigrant women working to end sexual violence. Created with help from Centre sante communautaire, Mouvement ontarien des femmes immigrantes francophones, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

Take Back the Night Sign Making Parties!

Got an awesome idea for a sign for this year’s Take Back the Night? Just want to play with markers and bristol board? C’mon over to Hamilton Public Library’s Pre-TBTN Sign Making Party!

HPL will supply bristol board, markers, and sign making supplies but if you have any special art supplies you would like to bring you are more than welcome.

Folks of all genders welcome to this free event.

Dates:

Central Library – September 14th and 21st from 4-5pm
Red Hill Library – Tuesday, September 26th at 6pm
Saltflleet Library – Wednesday, September 27 at 6pm

Tuesday, October 3rd  – Safe Partying
Central Library at 3pm
Waterdown Branch at 7pm

Half of sexual assaults in Canada involve alcohol. This interactive session will give participants harm-reducing tools for ending alcohol facilitated sexual assault and online sexual violence.

Wednesday, October 4th – How to be an Ally to Survivors
Ancaster Branch at 2:30pm
Barton Street Branch at 7pm

If a coworker, family member or friend told you they had been assaulted, would you know how to respond? This interactive session will get participants thinking through the best ways of supporting people we love who have experienced sexual abuse.

For the Ancaster workshop please register ahead of time by calling – 905-648-6911.

Tuesday, October 17th at 6pm – Decolonizing Sexual Violence
Central Library

Join us for a panel conversation and learn from powerful Indigenous activists talking about their work ending sexual violence.

Wednesday, October 18th at 6pm – Sexual Violence: Beyond the Rainbow
Central Library

Learn realities of sexual violence for LGBQT2S folks and tactics for disrupting intersecting opressions contributing to violence: homophobia, transphobia, sexism and so much more.

Bystander Intervention Skills

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You can interrupt sketchy behaviour at a bar, concert, or a party to prevent
sexual violence.

These skills are new for lots of folks! Just like first aid, these strategies require learning, relearning, and practice.

SACHA has got your back! If you see something sketchy and you unsure how to take action, you can call SACHA’s 24 Hour Support Line to chat about ideas and options – 905.525.4162.

The number one action you can take RIGHT NOW is:

Bystander Intervention Skills

Delegate

Don’t go it alone. Gather your peeps. Who is near that can help?A friend? Security staff? Even if it’s just to validate that the behaviour is not OK.

  • “I think she needs our help, but I don’t know what to do. Have any ideas?”
  • “Will you watch while I go chat with them?”

Direct

Approach either the person being targeted or the person doing the harassing and be direct.

  • “Are you OK?”
  • “Can I help you?”
  • “That’s not OK.”
  • “You need to stop.”

Distract

Think of a way to distract the folks involved in the situation: either the person being targeted or the person doing the harassing.

  • “Can you take a pic of my friends and I?”
  • “What time is it?”
  • “Where’s the washrooms?”
  • “That’s a FAB outfit! Where did you get it?”
  • “My friend’s gone missing. Can you help me find them?”

Document

Make a record or keep your eye on the situation in case it escalates.

Bystander Intervention by SACHA

 

Can’t Talk? Type

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Sometimes we can’t form the words aloud. That’s ok.

Now that’s SACHA’s support is online, survivors and their allies can get text and online chat supportive listening.

Text-Support-Announcemennt

Currently we’re online:

  • Mondays from 6pm-12am
  • Fridays from 9pm-2am

To connect with a trained volunteer either text 647.977.5908 or visit sacha.ca to start chatting online. Continue reading

Getting Ready for Welcome Week

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SACHA and the Equity Inclusion Office are full into training volunteers and staff to get ready for Welcome Week at McMaster University.

In April, we led an hour long workshop on taking action to end rape culture. Check our highlights from our presentation two years ago. Yesterday, we completed seven of the twenty workshops that we are facilitating this week. We focused on McMaster’s Sexual Violence Response Protocol. You can read the protocol here and take a peek at highlights from the presentation here.

Today we worked with the 57 Maroons, that represent McMaster’s Students Union.

We led a short 90 minute intro to preventing sexual violence at mass gatherings with Bystander Intervention techniques.

SACHA Rack Card 2016Last year was the first time they got bystander training and the shift away from worries and fears to folks sharing strategies that they know have worked was measurable.

These are strategies that we need to learn, relearn, and practice.

How are you – as a participant or as an organizer – working to end sexual violence at mass gatherings?

If you see something sketchy happening at the bar, concert, or festival, SACHA is here to chat about ideas on how to help 24 hours a day – 905.525.4162.

We have some follow up links for today’s participants:

We’ve gotta take a nap because we’ve got twelve more presentations this week!