May is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month in Ontario. This month we are reminded of the devastating outcomes caused by sexual violence. Survivors and supporters will gather, raise awareness and educate in hopes of stopping sexual violence. Sexual assault is a gender-based crime because the majority of survivors identify as women. In fact 1 in 3 Canadian women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
The YWCA Canada released an infographic in 2012 based on a research report authored by Holly Johnson. The infographic shows for every 1000 sexual assaults, only 33 are reported to police and only 3 will lead to conviction. Many people mistakenly believe that if a woman does not report the incident to the police, it wasn’t sexual assault. There are many reasons survivors do not come forward to report sexual violence and her reluctance to report doesn’t negate the crime that was committed. A remarkably low reporting and conviction rate underscores the need for immediate action.
In 2015, the Canadian Women’s Foundation released a report that indicated only 1 in 3 Canadians know what consent means. Many Canadians simply cannot identify that consent must be both positive (meaning the person said “Yes”) and ongoing. The fast paced evolution of digital technology has also created a lot of confusion regarding consent. Unfortunately, “one in five (21%) people aged 18 to 34 believe if a woman sends a man an explicit photo through text or email, this always means she is inviting him to engage in offline sexual activity.” (Canadian Women’s Foundation).
Recent stats and reports paint an overwhelming need for all allies to join together and put an end to sexual violence. Women and girls have an undeniable right to be safe within our communities. In the month of May, we are calling upon our allies to step up and make change in their community. You can take your #firststepfirstchange by becoming a Steel City Ally.