Celebrating 40 Years of OCRCC

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OCRCC-is-Turning-40-posterOCRCC – Ontario’s coalition of English-speaking sexual assault centres – is turning 40 this year!

THIS IS A BIG DEAL!

When SACHA was founded in 1975 it was by a group of survivors with no funding who wanted to change the world. When patriarchy, oppression, and colonialism are still so powerful and present in our daily lives, this anniversary is reason to CELEBRATE!

What we have planned…

  • 6:30pm Meet and Greet
  • 7:00pm Greetings
  • 7:15pm Comedian Elvira Kurt
  • 8:00pm Presentations and Awards
  • 8:15-9:00pm Social

When: Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
Where: Ramada Hotel and Suites – 300 Jarvis Street, Toronto ON
Please RSVP to Nicole (ocrcccoordinator@hotmail.com), JoAnne (directorwsac@vianet.ca), or Michelle (michelle@sascsl.ca).

 

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OCRCC Supports Julie Lalonde

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The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) stands behind OCRCC staff Julie Lalonde, and her disclosure of her experiences with the Royal Military College (RMC).

In 2014, OCRCC staff and Campaign Manager Julie Lalonde attended Royal Military College (RMC) to offer briefings addressing sexual violence, bystander intervention and sexual violence prevention[1]. The events that occurred during and after her presentations was concerning to us at OCRCC as an employer, and as an active voice in working to prevent sexual violence in Ontario’s communities. We thank Royal Military College staffs for corresponding and meeting with us in response to these events.

As sexual assault survivor advocates, we know that there are many realistic reasons why those impacted by violence are hesitant to engage with formal reporting systems —or to share their experiences at all. Many fear reprisal or retaliation. As one Canadian paper on the military, sexual harassment and reporting processes notes: “Underreporting has been attributed to women believing that the formal reporting process will not be useful to them, [and] concerns that they would be labeled a troublemaker or whistleblower[2]. Continue reading

Were You Abused By a Medical Professional?

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Postcard SATF OCRCCOntario has appointed a task force to look into improving policy to prevent and respond to sexual abuse of patients by regulated health professionals.

Why is this Task Force important?
Patients rely on their care providers for information, help and privacy.  Sexual abuse by regulated healthcare professionals can occur silently, and behind closed doors. Often, very vulnerable women and men are targeted. As sexual assault survivor advocates, we know that sexual abuse by health professionals happens. The Task Force is now working to connect with survivors and learn from their experiences.

What is a “regulated health professional?”
There are more than 20 regulated health professions in Ontario. Regulated health professionals are overseen by an organization (called a College); the College makes sure that the health professional is ethical and doing their job properly.

In Ontario, “regulated health professionals” include the following health professionals:

  • Doctors
  • Midwives
  • Chiropodists and podiatrists
  • Nurses
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Opticians
  • Dentists and dental hygienists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Psychologists
  • Massage therapists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Medical laboratory technologists
  • Speech-language pathologists

My organization/group/I am in touch with survivors of patient sexual abuse. What can I do?
If you are a survivor of patient sexual abuse – or you are working with survivors of patient sexual abuse — and want to share your experiences, please get in touch with the Task Force this April.

We can tell you about what to expect if you decide to take part in an interview. We can also book an interview with you, if you decide to do so.

Private and supportive interviews available. Assistance to participate (i.e. travel) and other supports provided. Or just get in touch to learn more!

I want to know more.
Questions? Want to participate?

Sexual Assault Centres Apply for Intervenor Status in Ancaster Appeal

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In August 2013, a case of sexual assault, highlighted in the Hamilton Spectator and the Toronto Star came to our attention.

We learned that in a civil case, Superior Court Judge Andrew Goodman ordered two sisters from Ancaster, Ont., to pay their uncle $125,000 in libel damages for allegedly “falsely accusing him of sexually assaulting…when they were children”.

Judge Goodman ruled that the sisters’ memories of the incident were “not of the clear and cogent nature”.  He also pointed out that the women “did not file a police report and that criminal charges have not been laid”. As victim-survivor advocates, we note that there are many realistic reasons why victims of crime choose not to report to the police; or why historical memories stand unclear.

The erroneous belief that false allegations of sexual abuse are commonplace lurks, unspoken, beneath Goodman’s verdict. It echoes other myths about sexual assault, which posit that innocent men are often accused of sexual assault and women lie about it to get revenge, for their own benefit, or because they feel guilty about having sex. Not surprisingly, some media outlets piled on to regurgitate old notions and anecdotes, aimed at identifying any woman or child who alleges abuse “as delusional, vengeful, exploitative, or an attention-seeker”. Little was said about the realities of sexual assault reporting, and our criminal justice system’s effectiveness in holding offenders accountable.

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) is very concerned about this ruling. It has profound negative implications for survivors of sexual assault everywhere. We have decided to apply as an Intervenor within the context of the Ancaster sisters’ appeal.

What is an Intervenor?
In law, intervention is a procedure to allow a nonparty, called an intervenor, to join an ongoing litigation.  The rationale for intervention is that a judgment in a case may affect the rights of others, who ideally should have the right to be heard.

There are several distinct reasons why someone might wish to intervene in a proceeding. As example:

  • The intervenor represents a group of people who have a direct concern in the legal issues raised in the case, and the implications of a ruling
  • The intervenor is concerned that the court’s decision in a particular case might be so broad as to have additional, even unintended, effects on others

The role of intervenors is to “assist” the court in making a just decision on the dispute at hand.

Why does OCRCC have an interest in intervening in this case?
We can see that the ruling has profoundly negative implications for all survivors of sexual assault.

First, the courts have an important role in supporting victims of crime and this ruling does not ally with the realities affecting survivors of sexual assault. Instead, it draws on (and reproduces) sexual assault myths and misconceptions which harm survivors.

Second, the messaging implicit in the ruling conveys a significant lack of knowledge concerning the impacts and contexts of sexual assault and sexual assault reporting:

  • Many survivors do not report due to stigma, embarrassment, self-blame, a fear of not being believed, and concern for repercussions in their personal relationships – particularly when the offender is a friend, family member, acquaintance or co-worker
  • The majority of sexual assault offenders are in fact known to the victim in some way
  • Acquaintances, friends, dates or relatives are more likely to use tricks, verbal pressure, threats, negative consequences, or victim-blaming rhetoric (i.e. “You know you wanted this”; “If you tell about what happened here, you will be in trouble”) during episodes of sexual coercion. This inevitable impacts upon a survivor’s capacity to resist or report what happened
  • Too often, a “victims’ apparent lack of resistance becomes the focus of assessment and intervention”. The ruling supports this problematic approach to understanding and substantiating sexual violence
  • False allegations of sexual assault are not a common social problem. What is a common social problem is:
  1. the reality that survivors of sexual assault are regularly not believed or supported when they disclose their experiences of violation and
  2. offenders are not held accountable for their actions. In reality, the majority of all reported sexual assault cases are simply not reported at all – and those that are reported are not resolved through the criminal justice system. According to Statistics Canada, only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to police (a lower stat than in other crimes). Of the 6% of sexual assaults that are reported, only 40% result in charges being laid; and of those cases where charges are laid, just two-thirds result in conviction

Last, this ruling will have very negative and precedent-setting implications for survivors of sexual violence who choose to talk about their experience of violation. Now – in addition to the myriad other implications of telling their stories – survivors will face the real threat of being sued for libel by their offenders. We believe this will particularly affect the reporting of sexual assault to police.

What will happen next?
OCRCC has secured legal representation. We will apply to intervene in support of the appeal of this case. The court will decide whether or not to allow us to intervene.

An experienced lawyer has offered pro bono support to us at $5,000. She will support our application to intervene, as well as the intervention itself, should the court approve. During the intervention process, OCRCC will articulate the above information in the context of the case.

What else do I need to know?
OCRCC represents a network of 25 sexual assault centres from all across Ontario. OCRCC is funded through membership fees only, and a few other small project grants. As such, we have a very modest funding base.

Most of us are affected by sexual violence at some point in our lifetime: perhaps our sister, mother, partner, friend, co-worker or wife is a survivor of sexual violence, or perhaps you have personally been affected by sexual violence. In this, sexual violence affects all our communities.

We are relying on the support of the community to assist us in raising the $5000 incurred in legal fees related to this case.

If you want to support OCRCC’s efforts, you can do so by going to:
https://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?charityID=s32280 and clicking on `Donate Now`. Any amount will make a difference. Please circulate this
to other allies who you think may also support this case too!

This is  one way that you can make a difference for survivors of sexual violence right now.

I want to more information. Who can I contact?
You can contact Nicole Pietsch, OCRCC Coordinator:

  • By phone at 905-299-4429
  • Via email at ocrcccoordinator@hotmail.com.

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres Responds to Ancaster Sisters Being Sued

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For over 35 years, the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) has been working in the province and across Canada to address and end sexual violence in our communities.

The OCRCC was formed in the mid-1970s as a communication network for Rape Crisis/Sexual Assault Centres. It provides information sharing in policy stances, funding and lobbying efforts for centres, and acts as an advisory body to governments, community groups and other organizations.

Yesterday, we found out that two Ancaster sisters are being sued for libel for alleging that their uncle sexually assaulted them.  This is OCRCC response.

Superior Court judge Andrew Goodman’s ruling – in which he ordered two Ancaster sisters to pay their uncle $125,000 in libel damages after they accused him of sexually assaulting them as children – belies the fact that those alleging sexual violence continue to be held to more stringent account than are their alleged offenders.

Judge Goodman dismissed the claim because the sisters’ memories of the incident were “not of the clear and cogent nature required” to substantiate the allegations.  It was also noted that the women “did not file a police report and that criminal charges have not been laid”.

As an adult, I can think of a hundred reasons why a childhood memory, particularly a traumatic one, might be unclear.  As a victim’s advocate who has spent many years supporting women and men in sharing their stories of childhood sexual violence, I can also think of a hundred reasons why a person might choose not to report to the police.  Unfortunately these details and others, as presented in Judge Goodman’s ruling, instead work to reproduce old victim-blaming rhetoric.

The erroneous belief that false allegations of sexual abuse – including malicious allegations levelled at a person that one simply “did not like” – are commonplace lurks, unspoken, beneath Goodman’s verdict.  It echoes other myths about sexual assault, which posit that innocent men are often accused of sexual assault and women lie about it to get revenge, for their own benefit, or because they feel guilty about having sex.1

In reality, the majority of all reported sexual assault cases are simply not resolved through the criminal justice system. According to Statistics Canada, only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to police (a lower stat than in other crimes). Of the 6% of sexual assaults that are reported, only 40% result in charges being laid; and of those cases where charges are laid, just two-thirds result in conviction2 .  Is this because most of these reports are false?  No.  Instead, the fact of the matter is that sexual assault is difficult to prove in justice systems3 .  When we consider that the majority of sexual assault offenders are known to the victim in some way4 – and that acquaintances, dates or relatives are more likely to use verbal pressure, threats, or mild force during episodes of assault – is it any wonder that physical evidence of sexual assault is difficult to retain5 ?

And based on the above statistics, how many of those who report sexual assault could now expect a libel suits as a realistic consequence to their coming forward?  The answer is: most.

Sexual assault myths continue to be ever-present and used against victims within the Canadian criminal justice system.  Offenders and defense attorneys commonly take up the alibi that a sexual encounter was consensual; or – like Goodman’s ruling – construct the “victim as delusional, vengeful, exploitative, or an attention-seeker”6 .  Given the important role of the courts in supporting victims of crime, I suggest that judgements should not rest solely upon scrutinizing the victim. This discourages survivors of sexual violence from coming forward and takes the onus off of offenders everywhere.

Further, if Canadian justice systems do not consciously work to recognize the realities of child sexual abuse – and the great courage it takes for survivors to come forward – sexual violence will continue to go unchallenged.

Nicole Pietsch, Coordinator, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres

www.sexualassaulsupport.ca

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[1] Sexual Assault centre Kingston. Busting Myths. Online: http://www.sackingston.com/Default.aspx?pageId=857971;

And The Learning Network. Overcoming Barriers and Enhancing Supportive Responses: The Research on Sexual Violence Against Women A Resource Document. May 2012: 14.

[2] http://www.citizenship.gov.on.ca/owd/english/publications/sexual-assault/reporting.htm

[3] Ibid

[4] Statistics Canada, 2003, The Daily, 25 July

[5] Hakvag, H. Does Yes Mean Yes?: Exploring Sexual Coercion in Normative Heterosexuality. Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme. Volume 28, Number 1. York University Publication: 122

[6] The Learning Network. Overcoming Barriers and Enhancing Supportive Responses: The Research on Sexual Violence Against Women A Resource Document. May 2012: 17.