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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You Rock. It’s True.

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IMG_2213We were so excited to be invited to 5th Ancaster Girl Guides last fall to help them with their Say No To Violence Challenge.  We had amazing discussions and did activities to think about what they want in their relationships and how they can stand up for their friends.

They also came up with a very long list of what they look for in friends! The Guides then made beautiful art for survivors at SACHA, with their messages of support and love.

Thank you to these amazing young women for sharing to much compassion and creativity!

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month.

Broad Convos Interview – Marisa

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Broad Convos 2 HFZF Zine Launch

Poster by Amy Egerdeen

Broad Conversations are gatherings in Hamilton, Ontario for feminist broads. Gatherings are structured to inspire new ideas and reflections on important themes within a feminist context.

The theme for this very special Broad Convos 2 x HFZF Launch is “participation” – how do we define, value, and manage participation as feminists, as women, as citizens?

We’re also launching SACHA’s collaborative zine ‘Messages of Support for Survivors’ at the next Broad Convos.

When: Tuesday, May 23rd – 7:30pm -9pm
Where: 541 Eatery & Exchange – 541 Barton Street East, Hamilton ON
Cost: FREE!

We interviewed one of the speakers at Broad Convos, Marisa Rodriques:

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Hi I’m Marisa, I am eleven years old, a student and I have my own company,  I love art including drawing unicorns with my BFF Angelina , swimming, and playing volleyball.

For the past two years I have participated in SACHA’S feminist zine fair and met great people who share my passion for change.

To me feminism  is equality for everyone and anyone, I feel like everyone should have a fair chance to do anything they want to do without judgment or limitations.

My favorite feminist hero is Rosie the Riveter.

The broad conversation excites me because I get to talk about feminism to people who will listen.

#UseTheRightWords: Reporting on Sexual Violence Awards

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Recognizing that Canadian media has the power to shape conversations about sexual violence, we want to celebrate insightful and challenging media reporting on sexual violence in the past year.

To get involved,  nominate articles and authors in the Canadian media at the local, regional or national level (e.g. Globe and Mail, Buzzfeed, Chatelaine, National Post, Toronto Star, Vice, Huffington Post, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, etc.) that you think are deserving of one or more of the following awards:

Use The Right Words: Reporting on Sexual Violence Awards

  • Super Sleuth –  Best Investigative Article
  • Survivors Know Best: Best First Person Narrative
  •  We Begin by Listening: Best Interview
  • We Revolt at Dawn  – Best Overall Article
  • Desk Flip – Worst Overall Article and Author

To nominate an article for an award, go to http://bit.ly/RightWordsAward and submit your choices. The nominations will be open from December 8th 2016 – January 21st 2017.

Awards will be conferred on February 1st, 2017, the anniversary of the Ghomeshi trial. The awards are organized by femifestoOttawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW)Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, and Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University.

December 6th in Hamilton

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December 6th is the International Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

We celebrate on December 6th because it is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre – a shooting at ‘École Polytechnique de Montréal, where women engineering students were separated from the men and killed.

They died because they were women.

We remember the dead, those who have died this year because of misogynist violence. We fight to prevent all forms of violence and oppression.

There are two events happening in Hamilton this year: Continue reading

SHE SAID BOOM: THE STORY OF FIFTH COLUMN

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By Tara Bursey

We have almost reached the end of Woman Abuse Prevention Month, and it’s been heartening to see initiatives and campaigns pop up around town and in cyberspace in observation of it. My friend Leah and I have our own initiative that we’re really excited about happening this Saturday, and we hope that you will attend! All proceeds will go to SACHA to mark this important month, and to honour the important work that they do for the Hamilton community.

Have you heard of Fifth Column? If not, you’re probably not alone. Fifth Column were a multi-disciplinary post-punk group– a group of women from Toronto who formed in 1981. Two members, Caroline Azar and GB Jones, remained a constant until the group disbanded in the 1990s. Continue reading

Anti-Trump Protest in Toronto

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by Rhythms of Resistance – Toronto

On Monday, October 24th, all us “nasty women” (including those who identify as women always, sometimes, and sort-of) are going to snatch the tower with pussy power!!

The Trump Tower in Toronto represents, in one ugly edifice and everything that is disturbing about Trump’s campaign: it is built by the poor for the rich, and it is a glorification of greed and exploitation. This big, stone erection is just another reminder to women in Toronto that while Trump himself might be all the way across the border, his influence and his validation of rape culture penetrates all the way into Canada as well.

ror-toronto-2 Continue reading