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May is the Month to Raise Awareness on Sexual Assault

According to the YWCA, there are 460,000 sexual assault incidents in Canada every year, with only a small minority reported to authorities.

To show solidarity with victims of sexual violence, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASCWR) has launched the “No One Asks For It” campaign during Sexual Awareness Month.

Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted sexual activity including harassment, threats or physical force.

The month of May is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Canada.

“It is a topic that people don’t often want to talk about. It’s important to bring to people’s attention and give it some focus every year. Sometimes it can be forgotten. We do like to draw people’s attention to it. We use that opportunity to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual voice in our communities as well as an opportunity to address it,” said Joane Tuchlinsky, Public Education Manger for SASCWR.

The “No One Asks For It” campaign combats the prevalence of victim blaming in incidents of sexual assault. The centre has asked Canadians to wear purple on Friday, May 6 to show support to survivors of sexual violence.

“One of the biggest hurdles people face after a sexual assault is that notion that someone asks what they were wearing or where they were or what they were doing, essentially victim blaming. So, this is our opportunity to say no one asks for it, raise awareness about this and show support to survivors of sexual violence by wearing purple that day,” explained

Tuchlinsky adds that media reports often entail police officers or judges who internalize the concept of victim blaming and is evident in the fact that many perpetrators get off on lighter sentences.

The Public Education Manager explains that the best thing an individual can do for a victim of sexual assault is to show judgment-free support.

“It’s really important to let people know that they’re believed, you let them know that and listen respectfully to their story and not push for details. You don’t need to hear the whole story to provide support.  Reassure them it’s not their fault, whatever the circumstances, and be supportive and understanding. You want to let them know they’re not alone and you can direct them towards resources in their community,” noted Tuchlinksky.

The SASCWR is part of Ontario’s Coalition of Rape Crisis and is on the frontline of providing support to victims of sexual assault. The centre offers a 24-hour support line, group and individual counselling and outreach for public education, including workshops on consent.

“We really want to re-enforce the idea of healthy relationships and enthusiastic consent. Not just about: well I thought she was consenting because she didn’t fight me off,” stated Tuchlinsky.

Tuchlinsky adds that consent needs to be given repeatedly and the person must be in a state to give consent.

Recent reports about sexual misconduct within the CAF, has also drawn the attention of military leadership. Last fall, the CAF launched Operation HONOUR, a blueprint for eradicating sexual harassment and misconduct with a “no tolerance” policy towards acts of sexual assault. One of the concrete measures of Op HONOUR is the creation of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre.

Many government institutions also recognize May as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, including the provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick.

Ontario has in place a specific Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act while this year marks the sixth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign in New Brunswick.

For more information about the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region visit their website.

For more information about resources offered and information about Op Honour visit the Forces website.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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