Changing our culture of patriarchy and misogyny will require education paired with new laws and more stringent enforcement of existing policies.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published May 29, 2015
Sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, entitlement, inherent right, colonialism, and rape culture. This is a very long list of ingrained prejudices that must be acknowledged, challenged and replaced with respectful relationships and equitable partnerships in our homes, schools, workplaces, and public spaces.
This is going to take a major change of mindset for us as a society. Certain segments of the population will be slow to change while others will dig their heels in and simply refuse.
So, while education is the preferred means of changing attitudes and practices, in reality it will have to be paired with new laws and more stringent enforcement of existing laws and policies.
Thank goodness we're not starting from scratch and have organizations, policies, procedures, laws, and educational programs to draw from and build upon.
Currently, there are 42 sexual assault centres in Ontario. 30 offer services in English while 12 serve French-speaking communities. They fall under the care of the Ministry of the Attorney General, from whom they receive core funding.
Counselling, crisis lines and public education are the core services offered by sexual assault centres. Money for additional projects is raised through grants, community fundraising and other precarious forms of increasing income.
Services include 24-hour crisis counselling over the phone; accompaniment to the hospital, court and/or police station; advocacy and referrals; crisis intervention; individual or group counselling and self-help groups; public education on sexual violence; presentations and workshops for the public and professionals.
They also engage in social activism including Sexual Assault Prevention Month in May, Take Back The Night in September, Women Abuse Prevention Month in November, and December 6th vigils to remember the victims of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre.
Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres in Ontario are hospital-based centres that provide 24/7 emergency care to women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted or who are victims or survivors of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner abuse.
The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) is an equity seeking network of women from twenty-six autonomous sexual assault/rape crisis centres across Ontario. They are committed to leading social transformation that prevents and eliminates sexual violence.
The OCRCC developed and launched a provincial education campaign addressing sexual violence and the role bystanders can play.
Draw The Line is an interactive campaign designed to engage Ontarians in a dialogue about sexual violence. The campaign challenges common myths about sexual violence and equips bystanders with information on how to intervene safely and effectively.
The OCRCC has endorsed the Ontario government's province-wide initiative, "It's Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment."
This comprehensive plan includes initiatives that will improve education for kids, youth, young adults and the general public; increase funding for survivor supports; and move us towards the goal of preventing sexual violence.
Legislation to strengthen civil claims related to sexual violence and harassment in workplaces, on campuses, and in housing
Launch a public education and awareness campaign with short and long range goals to end rape culture and encourage attitudinal and behavioural shifts
Create a more compassionate and sensitive environment to encourage more survivors to report sexual assaults
Update the Health and Physical Education curriculum to give students a better understanding of important issues including healthy relationships and consent
Create legislation requiring colleges and universities to develop comprehensive sexual violence and harassment policies
Enable hospital-based Sexual and Domestic Violence Treatment Centres to offer twenty-four hour care seven days a week
Develop training for health, community service, education and justice sectors to support survivors, as well as training hospitality workers to know how to help in high-risk situations
Stabilize and increase funding for community-based sexual assault centres
Create a pilot program to provide free independent legal advice to sexual assault survivors whose cases proceed to criminal trial
Establish a permanent roundtable to make Ontario a leader within Canada on issues of violence against women
Strengthen enforcement under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to help employers develop stronger sexual harassment policies
Launch a creative engagement fund that supports Ontario artists to develop projects that provoke conversation and dialogue on issues of consent, rape culture, and gender inequality
This plan effectively recognizes that sexual harassment and rape culture are rooted within generational attitudes and behaviours that take a great deal of time and effort to change. It's a good balance of education - not only for children and youth, but for post-secondary institutions, workplaces, police, the legal system, for profit and non-profit organizations, as well as the general public.
It's well documented that despite best intentions and concerted efforts, some people will refuse to change because, "there's no law that says I have to." This provincial plan addresses this regressive logic by introducing new legislation along with stronger enforcement of existing policies and laws which effectively mandates laggards to follow the rules or face the consequences.
The real thrust of this three-year plan is that it reaches kids and youth when there's still hope to instill the respect and ethics needed to create a future without gendered violence. The permanent roundtable will ensure the conversation goes on well beyond achieving the first benchmark.
As Sexual Assault Prevention Month draws to a close, consider #WhoWillYouHelp!
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