Please Listen to Her…

By Lydia Rogerson in Community

O, the month of May, the merry month of May – a blissful time of renewal that makes
us all breathe a collective “ahhh” as the sun warms our backs for the first time in many months.

But, sadly, the theme of this article is not to wax eloquent on the delights of springtime. May is also Sexual Assault Prevention Month here in Ontario and, in light of the recent Globe and Mail investigative
report on “unfounded” sexual assault cases, it seems that everything is not coming up roses for sexual assault survivors in Wellington County.

Crisis Lines for victims of sexual assault:
Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis:
519-836-5710 or
1-800-265-7233
Optimism Place (Stratford and area):
519-271-5550 or
1-800-265-8598
Huron Women’s Shelter: 1-800-265-5506

As a domestic violence counsellor, I was saddened to read that in Wellington the number of reported sexual assaults dismissed as “unfounded” by Ontario Provincial Police was well above the national average. In fact, 34% of reported sexual assaults were designated as “unfounded” over a five-year period. That means that 88 out of 257 allegations of sexual assault were deemed “baseless” and warranted no further investigation. And that tells me that 88 victims of sexual violence were not believed by police and will never see their attackers brought
to justice.

As a counsellor who helps women to recover from the trauma of sexual violence and as a woman and as a mother of a daughter, I find 34% an inexcusable percentage. With numbers like this, is it any wonder that fewer than 10% of rape victims report their assaults to police?

Now, since the Globe and Mail article went to print, we have learned that the OPP will be reviewing 4,000 unfounded reports across the province; the review is said to cover allegations made between 2010 and 2014. I am cautiously hopeful that this review will result in real change for rape victims. I also hope that the OPP will receive adequate training in the neurobiology of trauma and the effects of trauma in sexual assault survivors, and that they will further commit to being the first step of a trauma-informed
justice system.

I firmly believe that the dialogue on sexual violence needs to expand to include every member of our caring community. We need to start talking about the increase in sexual violence, we need to teach our kids the meaning of consent early and repeatedly, we must call out sexist attitudes and challenge misconceptions and myths about sexual violence. Most importantly, we need to believe victims of sexual assault when they come forward for help. We need her to know how courageous she is for reaching out. It is disheartening to know that one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in
her lifetime.

If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of sexual assault there is help. See sidebar for contacts.

Lydia Rogerson is a rural support counsellor for Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis. The agency serves the entire county with four rural offices in Palmerston, Mount Forest, Fergus and Erin as well as a safe shelter, sexual assault centre, transition and housing program, family court support program and a crisis line.