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Survivors of Sexual Violence

stop violence towards women - sexual violenceSAVIS of Halton is reaching out to all survivors of sexual violence, their support people, as well as to anyone who may find themselves as a bystander in situations of sexual violence.

In this letter to our community, we respond to recent disclosures of violence against women and media attention regarding why many survivors of abuse do not feel able to report to police.

Related: Lenore Lukasik, chair of the Ontario Coalition for Rape Crisis Centres, discusses 5 myths about sexual violence

SAVIS Media Release

To our community,

In response to recent disclosures of violence against women, and media attention regarding why many survivors of abuse do not feel able to report to police, SAVIS of Halton reaches out to those affected by sexual violence in the Halton Region.

You are likely to hear many interpretations of the recent incidents related to the CBC in your community and in the media. To us, the stories of women who faced sexual harassment in the workplace, physical and sexual violence, and violence in dating scenarios are far too common.

These women’s stories do not detail “adventurous forms of sex that included role-play,
dominance and submission” [1]; or benign miscommunication within BDSM practice.
Instead, they reflect these women’s experiences of sexual and physical violence.

We are aware of survivor-victims’ fear of reprisal for sharing their stories. In the recent cases, many of the women chose not to file police complaints, and “the reasons given for not coming forward publicly include the fear that they would be sued or would be the
object of Internet retaliation” [2].

These fears reflect the concerns of all survivors of sexual violence. They also point to the many root causes of low reporting and conviction rates of sexual assault in Canada. For example:

  •  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 [3];
  • 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 [4]. This inevitably impacts upon a victim’s ability to react, resist or report what happened;
  • False allegations of sexual assault are not a common social problem. Accidental misunderstandings of consent during sex are not a common problem. The laws on consent are clear. 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 (less than 10%) [5] – and those that are reported are not always resolved through the criminal justice system. Due to the limits of the criminal justice system response, a small minority of those initially charged with sexual assault actually see conviction [6].

With these realities in mind, SAVIS of Halton reaches out to all survivors of sexual violence, their support people, and to anyone who may find themselves as a bystander in situations of sexual violence.

If something has happened to you, there are people who will believe and support you. You can talk to a trusted friend, family member, or contact SAVIS of Halton at 905-825-3622. You can access support 24-hours a day at 905-875-1555. If you are considering reporting to police, we can help you understand your options. If you do not want to report, we will still gladly support you. All calls and services, including individual counselling, are free and confidential.

If you are a friend or colleague of someone who is dealing with sexual violence, there are things you can do. You can be an Ally to the person who is victimized.

If you are an employer, there are things you can do. You can speak up, or step in. You can ask for help from others if you are not sure what to do, and then step in together. You can take leadership to understand your obligations to safety as an employer, and ensure that these are in place at your workplace.

SAVIS of Halton understands the impact of sexual violence. We believe that education, and uniting to speak out against violence, are critical elements of preventing violence. Together we will make a difference.


Kathryn Baker-Reed
Executive Director
905-825-3622 x 24
Campaign: http://draw-the-line.ca/


[1] Donovan, K. and Jesse Brown, for the Toronto Star. CBC fires Jian Ghomeshi over sex allegations. Published on Sun Oct 26 2014. Online: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/10/26/cbc_fires_jian_ghomeshi_over_sex_allegations.html
[2] Ibid.
[3] Statistics Canada, 2003, The Daily, 25 July
[4] 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
[5] METRAC. Sexual Assault Statistics Sheet. Online: https://www.metrac.org/resources/sexual-assault-fact-sheet/
[6] The Learning Network. The Network Comes to Life. May 2012: 2. Available online: http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/sites/learningtoendabuse.ca.vawlearningnetwork/files/LN_Newsletter_May_2012_Issue_1.pdf