Sexual Assault Awareness Week: Ask for Consent

Sexual Assault Awareness Week is recognized in Saskatchewan May 14-18. SEIU-West stands against sexual assault and supports the goal of creating awareness about consent and sharing information about support services for those who experience assault.

The 2018 theme is “ASK for CONSENT” – this is a vital aspect of ensuring sexual assault does not occur. Asking for consent is best and in order to determine whether you have consent, you always need to hear a YES – not an absence of a no. Consent can also be revoked at any time. If you have questions about consent, visit http://sassk.ca/resources/.

It is vital that we share information about consent, because it is clear Saskatchewan has a consent problem – we have the second highest rate of self-reported sex assaults per capita in all of Canada. Yet studies have shown most sexual assault survivors do not report. Part of the lack of reporting is due to the lack of action – many survivors have said they’ve felt re-victimized by the system of reporting – an investigation from Globe and Mail found that 19 per cent of sexual assault allegations in 2010 -2014 were considered “unfounded,” meaning Canadian police did not believe a crime had actually occurred.

Still, we’re seeing a rise of those who report sexual assault. In Regina, police received 185 reports of sexual assault. That number grew 26% since 2016. And in Saskatoon, there were 286 reports of sexual assault in 2015; in 2017, there were 359 reports. However, many support services are not able to meet these growing needs. In fact, the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Information Centre has not received a funding increase in three years. Staff say there is a growing demand for counselling services, but their resources do not coincide.

In order to address these ineffective justice and service needs, advocates are demanding increased education. As Faye Davis of the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre rightly says “sexual assault is the only [crime] that involves proving there was no consent”.  The questions from the police and justice system during a sexual assault case often question the credibility of the survivor’s actions. We therefore need education for judges and police but also for our communities who often act as juries. As Davis points out, “a victim’s actions can seem odd or contrary to an outsider’s expectations. She gives an example of a woman who tipped her cab driver after he assaulted her in the back of his vehicle, then dropped her off. Through one lens, she was trying to stop him from coming after her. Through another, her actions may not make sense.”

The #MeToo movement has helped break down the stigma around sexual assault, and many more people are recognizing they are not alone. But we need to address the cracks in our justice system and make sure people are educated about consent. It is also clear we need to ensure proper funding for support services, and we encourage you to share these concerns with the Saskatchewan Sexual Violence Action Plan’s Survey at this link.

For more information on sexual consent, please visit http://sassk.ca/resources/

To find your nearest support services provider, visit http://sassk.ca/finding-support/ or call 211.

If you experience sexual assault at work or if it’s affecting your work, please call the SEIU-West Member Resource Centre at 1.888.999.7348.

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