Sexual Violence Against Young Women and Police Response


“[The police should] make us feel more safe and do more to make the community aware they are taking abuse seriously.” (Youth Alliance Report, p.14)

These are not my words, but I understand them.

Imagine if you filed a police report about the sexual abuse or other form(s) of sexual violence overwhelming your life and you did not receive the support you expected. Support from the men and women we are all taught to trust from the time we are small children because it is the job of the police to protect us from bad things and bad people.

A police officer once asked me why I had waited so long to file a report about the sexual abuse I had experienced in my youth. As an adult, that question shocked me and for a moment, it made me feel as if there was something wrong with me for not coming forward sooner. That question still haunts me today because I know it should never have been asked.

Imagine my sadness a few months ago when I began working to raise awareness about the Youth Alliance Report, and learned that young women in Toronto are experiencing barriers to accessing real support from the police. Young women in Toronto report feeling blamed for being victimized by sexual violence. Young women in Toronto feel re-victimized when they report experiences of sexual violence to the police. Young women in Toronto feel uncertain that they can trust the police to follow through when they report incidents of sexual violence, especially if the perpetrator is someone they know.

No young woman in Toronto – no young woman anywhere – should ever feel any of this.

The Youth Alliance is a group of five young women leaders in Toronto who came together to address policing, sexual assault, and gender-based violence against youth. The group was supported by the Toronto Police Service’s Sex Crimes Unit to review police policies and procedures from a youth perspective. The Youth Alliance also engaged in community-based research.

The end result is the Improving the System: Police Policy and Practice on Sexual Assault against Young Women, a report developed with support from METRAC (The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children).

The report identifies strengths, challenges, and gaps in Toronto Police Service policies and procedures and proposes recommendations in five key areas of concern:

  • policy and procedures
  • youth leadership
  • training
  • communications
  • accountability

As adults, even when we have a vague understanding of our rights, the workings of the justice system, and the people in place to support and protect us, we struggle. We struggle with the trauma of having to re-tell our stories of sexual abuse and other sexual violence to multiple sources to get them to see us as credible people who have survived and deserve the benefit of justice. We struggle to understand the existing policies and practices that re-victimize rather than protect us.

Young women should never experience these struggles.

One Toronto Police Service officer who participated in the development of the report stated, “Public and/or victim feedback is the best feedback the service can receive” (Youth Alliance Report, p.13).

It is important for everyone this report reaches to read the report and give feedback.

If you have concerns about what is detailed in the Youth Alliance Report contact Toronto Police Service:

Phone: 416-808-8000
Email: William.Blair@torontopolice.on.ca
Mail: Chief William Blair, Office of the Chief of Police, Toronto Police Service, 40 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2J3

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Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund


On April 10, the Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley announced the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund.

The aim of this $900,000 fund is to help victims of crime and their families as they negotiate the intricacies of the justice system. According to the Attorney General, this new program will allow victims and their families “to participate more fully in the criminal court process”.

This fund will provide both financial and court-based supports to Ontario residents in three ways:

  • Helping both victims of crime and families of homicide victims to travel to attend court during key points in a criminal trial
  • Providing vulnerable victims with interpretation services when they are observing a criminal trial
  • Ensuring that victims with disabilities have appropriate supports, such as real-time captioning or other equipment to help them testify

Under the new program, victims of crime and families of homicide victims should apply through Ontario’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP), which is available in all 54 court districts across the province. V/WAP staff will determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis and help those who may qualify for assistance to apply. To find the V/WAP office closest to you, visit the online Victims Services Directory.

As of May 1, 2011 victims of crime and there families will be able to apply for support through a website.

For additional information about the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund contact:

Victim Support Line
Toll-free: 1-888-579-2888
Toronto: 416-314-2447

 

Online: Victim Services Directory
http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/FindHelp.asp

 

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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Navigator: When You Can’t Afford to Lose


What does it mean when a public relations firm accepts the task of sanitizing the image of two accused rapists?

Today, the Toronto Star reported that two Toronto doctors have hired public relations firm Navigator Ltd. “to massage the message” in the wake of being charged with gang sexual assault and administering a noxious substance. The men, Amitabh Chauhan and Suganthan Kayilasanathan, were arrested on February 18, 2011 for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman in a downtown Toronto hotel. They were granted bail yesterday after spending four days in Toronto’s Don Jail.

According to the company’s web site, Navigator Ltd. is the public relations firm to hire “When You Can’t Afford to Lose™” because they embrace a “winner takes all” approach when doing business. The site further states, “Our clients’ challenges are always unique, but they share one constant: the need to win in the court of public opinion.”

Chauhan and Kayilasanathan need to win. To that end, Navigator has wasted no time launching a campaign for these clients. To challenge what they characterize as “uninformed views and damaging opinion”, they arranged for the two men to give statements to the press outside the courthouse immediately after their release. The goal of this public relations campaign is to “sway perception” that may damage reputations in the case against Chauhan and Kayilasanathan.

This campaign has already swayed our perception; not away from the probable guilt of the accused men but toward a great repugnance for the firm representing them. As this case unfolds, we will be watching to see how an organization that boasts about corporate citizenship and charitable work further contributes to our community.

Update: On June 14, 2011, new sexual assault charges were filed against Amitabh Chauhan. According to a Toronto Police statement, 33-year-old Chauhan “has been charged with sexual assault and administering a drug for sex” and the alleged victim is a 21-year-old woman who “met up with a man in Kingston in the fall of 2003. Police allege the man put an unknown substance into the woman’s drink and then sexually assaulted her”.

Police say it’s believed there are other victims.

We could not locate any statements about these new charges from Navigator Ltd.

 

Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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