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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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).

 

SACHA Open House – All the Details

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SACHA volunteers and staff were hard at work today getting the centre ready for our Open House!

When: Thursday, May 21st from 2-6pm
Where: SACHA – 75 MacNab Street South, 3rd Floor

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We’re celebrating forty years of working to end sexual violence this year!

IMG_20150520_160623Our space is not only newly painted and has beautiful new flooring, but we’ve also decorated! IMG_20150520_160629Complete the SACHA Scavenger Hunt and get a chance to win a FABULOUS prize!

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Buy a 40th Anniversary pin for $2 or make a 40th Anniversary button!

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Pop by SACHA’s Sewing Circle to learn more about our Diverse Communities Outreach Programs and to help our facilitators make a sewing project. We’ve got lots of snacks to share in our group room!

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Head over to SACHA’s offices to meet more SACHA volunteers and staff and to see where individual counselling happens.

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Pick up some SACHA promo materials.IMG_20150520_164805 IMG_20150520_164809

And Draw the Line postcards in French and English.

Amelia’s Story

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Amelia is a Graduate of Small Business & Entrepreneurship with experience as a community advocate in both voluntary and professional settings; she is a survivor of sexual violence with roots in both Oxford County and Hamilton. Amelia has been a service-user at SACHA, as well as a volunteer since 2011.

You can watch a video of Ameila’s story here.

Amelia’s story was recently presented to the provincial government’s Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment.

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month.

I would like to first thank members of the Committee and all others in attendance today for your interest and participation, as well as your devotion to ending sexual violence and harassment, and gender-based violence in general.

Please know that I understand my experiences to be my own, and though these experiences are certainly reflective of the sexual violence and harassment that others have faced, my perspective is that of a person with certain “unearned privileges”: My light-coloured skin tone, the fact that I do not identify as transgender, and that I am currently physically able-bodied has certainly had defining and lasting positive impacts throughout my journey as a survivor within a society that demonstrates strong preferences for individuals who exhibit these characteristics.

I encourage the Committee, and attendees and listeners, to consider in their approaches the needs of survivors from all demographics.

During my second year of high-school, I was sexually assaulted by another student within school walls. After a couple weeks’ hesitation, and with the encouragement of a friend, I made a choice to disclose my experience to a trusted teacher. It was unclear to me at the time that from the exact moment I made my disclosure, the power to choose what I would go through would not be my own. Instead, the power of choice in the matter would reside in protocol beyond what was accessible to me. Continue reading

The Big Picture – Responding to Sexual Violence in Ontario

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Lenore from SACHA recently presented to the Ontario government’s Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment. Our presentation was about the work that sexual assault centres in Ontario are doing to support survivors and prevent violence and we shared our recommendations for change.

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee today and share our input. I’d like to start by briefly sharing some information about the organization I am representing today, the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area) – which is celebrating our 40th anniversary this year.

SACHA provides support to adult women and men (16 years of age and older), who have experienced childhood and/or adult sexual violence at any point in their lives. This includes rape, incest, sexual abuse and harassment.

Last year:

The issue of sexual violence, including harassment, is extremely complex. Today, I would like to focus on 3 key points:

  1. Ensuring that survivors have quick access to high quality, specialized trauma supports.
  2. Recognizing the importance of advocacy and system navigation in supporting survivors and ending victim-blaming.
  3. Shifting the focus away from reporting issues and a criminal response to ensuring that victims are appropriately supported and sexual violence is ultimately prevented.

Continue reading

SACHA on Parliament Hill Today

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IMAG0283Lenore Lukasik-Foss, SACHA’s Director and President of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres will be speaking to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities about Bill c-591.

This is a bill to amend the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Act would not allow a victim’s benefits be paid to the person who has been convicted of their murder.

Here’s more information on the amendment – http://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-591/

Good afternoon Honourable Members, staff and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee on Bill c-591. Today I am speaking on behalf of the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area) and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres – also known as the OCRCC. OCRCC is network of 26 sexual assault centres from across Ontario. We offer counselling, information and support services to survivors of recent and historical sexual assault. Continue reading

Get To Know Your Ontario Sexual Assault Centres

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This winter the Ministry of Attorney General in sent questionnaires to all of the Ontario Sexual Assault Centres.

For those of us who are working or volunteering at Sexual Assault Centres, we can forget that not everyone knows about the work that we are doing to support survivors and end violence.

Not only was there really interesting information shared, but to see it grouped together was quite powerful.

Did you know?

  • 1972 the first Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) in Ontario opened.  Our newest Ontario SAC was created in 2012.
  • Thirty-one English speaking and ten French speaking Sexual Assault Centres completed the questionnaire.
  • Combined Ontario SAC’s answered 37 000 crisis/support line calls in a year.
  • Half of the calls were during the daytime, thirty-three percent in the evening and seventeen percent were after midnight and before nine in the morning.
  • Across Ontario 9060 people got face-to-face service from Sexual Assault Centres.
  • Across Ontario 165 counsellors are working at Sexual Assault Centres.
  • The average number of years experience per counsellor is ten years and the median number of years experience is eight years.
  • Two-thirds of SAC’s reported having difficulty finding volunteers for lots of reasons: traumatizing/difficult work, socio-economic or demographic characteristics of the regions (ex: aging population, rural with lack of transportation, volunteers seeking paid jobs, etc.), and difficulties attracting French-speaking volunteers at French SAC’s.

theme_01More info! Continue reading