Media Release: WHAT ANTI-VIOLENCE EXPERTS KNEW BEFORE THE GHOMESHI TRIAL STILL HOLDS TRUE

For Immediate Release March 24, 2016

 

WHAT ANTI-VIOLENCE EXPERTS KNEW BEFORE THE GHOMESHI TRIAL STILL HOLDS TRUE

 

Halifax/Nova Scotia/Atlantic Region

 

Today we learned the outcome of one of the most high profile and widely discussed sexual assault trials of the decade.

 

“We are very disappointed but not surprised by the acquittal of Mr. Ghomeshi.  This case fits all too well in a long-standing pattern of victim-blaming and holding a sexual assault survivor to a higher standard than victims of other crimes” said Jeanne Fay, Executive Coordinator of Second Story Women’s Centre in Lunenburg. “The acquittal also points to inadequate support and resources for Judges and Crown Prosecutors to understand the impacts of trauma; and for the Crown to call expert witnesses in sexual assault cases. It is long past time that the Canadian Judiciary recognized this unfair treatment and implemented changes to rectify it, especially adequate training in the impact of trauma on victims of sexual assault.

 

“Clearly there are problems with the present system. This is an opportunity for community to ask for a review of the laws and work together towards change.  Sexual assault is a serious violation of our basic right to safety.” Said Shelley Curtis-Thompson, Executive Director of the Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre in New Glasgow.

 

Regardless of the verdict, this trial and the accompanying media coverage confirms that the criminal justice system is not a safe place for victims of sexual violence and remains mired in victim blaming and shaming. We are saddened at the long-term negative impacts this will have on women who have been affected by sexual violence and are seeking help, support, and justice.” Lorraine Whalley, Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre.

 

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It takes courage to report a sexual assault to the police. Some survivors choose to report. Many do not. 97% of sexual assaults go unreported in Canada. Of those that are reported to police, most do not lead to charges, let alone convictions. Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults in Canada, 997 assailants walk free. (Source: Johnson, “Limits of Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault,” in Sheehy, Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism, 2012) From those who do report, we often hear about how important they feel it is to hold the perpetrator accountable, regardless of the outcome

 

It’s not always simple to fully understand the short and long-term impacts of this particular kind of trauma – not simple for survivors themselves, nor others. There may or may not be visible physical injuries, but in every case there will be psychological impacts that can last a lifetime. The impacts can stem from the terror of experiencing a dehumanizing attack on one’s physical bodily integrity; the humiliation that ensues from heinous sexual acts being perpetrated by someone victims often thought they knew; blame and judgment from friends, family, the police and others; and the self- blame that most survivors struggle to come to terms with.

 

Focusing on the behaviour of victims doesn’t help us to understand this violent crime nor does it help us to hold perpetrators accountable for the crimes they commit. Sexual assault in dating relationships, like the ones described by the complainants in the Ghomeshi case, need to be understood within the context of intimate partner violence. 75% of sexual assaults are committed by somebody known to the survivor (Statistics Canada, Prevalence and severity of violence against women, 2013).

 

“The predatory behaviour of men like Ghomeshi is reinforced through our hypersexualized & pornofied culture that depicts women as inferior and objects to be abused and ridiculed.  As we work to address the societal harm from these depictions, men like Ghomeshi  need a clear message sent to them, from our justice system and our society, that violence against women will not be tolerated.” Says Bernadette MacDonald, Executive Director, Tri-County Women’s Centre, Yarmouth, NS.

 

We want to express our deep admiration and respect for the survivors who so courageously came forward in this case. Their willingness to come forward has started a public conversation in our country about the crime of sexual assault, a conversation we hope will help create a safer environment for others to come forward.

 

“National attention to the seriousness of sexualized violence and abuse and the complexities of sexual assault cases has led to public recognition of the impact of the criminal justice system on survivors of sexual assault/abuse.  There is a need for change in order to address gaps in access to services, support and justice for ALL victims/surviviors.” Indicates Jackie Stevens, Executive Director of Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax.  “Victim blaming and the myth that people often lie about sexual abuse is extremely harmful and prevents many survivors from disclosing and accessing support. We have learned that it is imperative to start by believing.”

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For more information Contact:

 

Jackie Stevens, Executive Director, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Halifax, NS

902-422-4240, executivedirector@avaloncentre.ca

 

Bernadette MacDonald, Executive Director, Tri-County Women’s Centre, Yarmouth, NS

902-742-0085, bernadette@tricountywomenscentre.org

 

Shelley Curtis-Thompson, Executive Director, Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre, New Glasgow, 902-755-4647, ed@womenscentre.ca

 

Jeanne Fay, Executive Coordinator, Second Story Women’s Centre, Lunenburg, NS

902-640-3044, exec@secstory.com

 

Lorraine Whalley, Executive Director, Executive Director, Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, Fredericton, NB, 506.454.0460, fsacc@nb.aibn.com

 

Sigrid Rolfe, PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, 902-566-1864 or admin@peirsac.org

 

 

 

This is a joint media release by the following organizations :

 

Sexual Assault Services Network of Nova Scotia: Alice Housing, Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Central Nova Women’s Resource Centre, Every Woman’s Centre, Harbour House, Heartwood Centre for Youth Development, LEA Place Women’s Resource Centre, Leeside Society, Mi’qmaw Native Friendship Centre, Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers, Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, Persons Against Non-State Torture, Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre, Raven Wisdom Retreat, Second Story Women’s Centre, Sexual Assault Services Lunenburg and Queens Counties, Sheet Harbour Sexual Health Centre, Strait Area Women’s Place, The Youth Project, Tri-County Women’s Centre, Women’s Centres Connect, Women’s Place Resource Centre, YWCA Halifax

 

The Atlantic Sexual Assault Network: Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, Newfoundland & Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis & Prevention Centre

 

 

 

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About Avalon Sexual Assault Centre

The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization working to eliminate sexual assault/abuse, and to change the current socio-political culture that fosters sexism, social injustice and other forms of oppression.