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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Victim Services Toronto and the Sexual Violence Action Plan


Honourable Laurel Broten,
Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues,
Minister of Children and Youth Services
14th Floor,
56 Wellesley Street West,
Toronto ON M5S 2S3

Dear Minister Broten,

We were pleased with the release of Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan at the beginning of March 2011. The Plan’s expansion of the definition of sexual violence is encouraging for women who have experienced sexual violence but are uncertain about what offences may or may not be prosecutable. The objectives to increase awareness and education for Police and members of the Justice System are timely and we are hopeful will increase the level of comfort women have with regard to reporting incidents of sexual violence.

However, we have learned that Victim Services Toronto is not one of the organizations scheduled to receive funding from the Sexual Violence Action Plan’s four-year $15 million dollar investment. Victim Services Toronto is a vital front-line agency that provides proactive support services to victims of sexual violence 24 hours, seven days a week. This organization has not received a cost of living increase for the last two decades and is in danger of cuts to important services.

In a March 8, 2011 press release, MPP Cheri DiNovo noted, “the funding per victim for the Victim Crisis Response Program has dropped from $286 in 1990 to $31 in 2010. If the government is serious about a Sexual Violence Action Plan, then Victim Services needs to be sustainably funded to ensure that the critical services they provide are available for all victims.” In addition, Dr. Alok Mukherjee, Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board stated, “Victim Services is a critical component of our response to crime, performing an essential role in terms of supporting the victims”.

As past recipients of support services from Victim Services Toronto, we know that they provide critical services to victims of sexual violence and are in need of funding to sustain the high level of service they currently deliver. We implore you to amend the Sexual Violence Action Plan’s budget to allocate funds to Victim Services Toronto, which is the only agency in Toronto providing immediate front-line assistance, to ensure that this valuable organization continues to support victims of sexual violence every hour of every day.

Sincerely,

Survivors Guide,
Sexual Violence Advocates

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Bob Rae, MP Toronto-Centre
Glen Murray, MPP Toronto Centre
Cheri DiNovo, MPP Parkdale-High Park
Bonnie Levine, Executive Director of Victim Services Toronto

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

Survivors Guide

Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan


On March 2, 2011, the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Laurel Broten, announced Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan as a “commitment to protect women from all forms of sexual violence”.

The plan focuses on three areas:

  • Raising public awareness to prevent sexual violence
  • Expanding and improving services for victims of sexual violence
  • Strengthening the criminal justice response toward sexual violence

You can read more details about the plan on the Ontario Women’s Directorate website:

Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives: Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan (Eng)
Changer les attitudes, changer les vies: Plan D’action De L’ontario Contre La Violence À Caractère Sexuel (Fr)

If you have questions or concerns about the plan, contact the office of Minister Broten:

Phone: 416-212-7432
Email: laurel.broten@ontario.ca
Mail: Hon. Laurel Broten, Minister’s Office – Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, 14th Floor, 56 Wellesley Street West, Toronto ON M5S2S3

 

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

Survivors Guide

 

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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Victims Matter


The Government of Canada has launched a streamlined site for victims of crime. The Victims Matter site states: “The government of Canada is taking action for victims of crime, so can you”.

Victims of sexual assault/sexual abuse can find information under the
“Is This Your Situation?” section by clicking on the link for
Victims of Violent Crime. In this section, to get help victims of sexual assault/sexual abuse are directed to:

  • call 911 in an emergency
  • contact your local police service if you wish to file a report
  • contact victim services whether or not they have reported the crime to police
  • click a link to the Victim Services Directory to locate services in your local area
  • click a link to learn more about victim services provided by provincial and territorial governments
  • click a link to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, which is a non-governmental organization

You can contact the Government of Canada to request information or to provide your feedback about the site.

Toll-free Number: Call 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) for help to find information and services.
TTY: 1-800-926-9105
Email: webadmin@justice.gc.ca
Mail: Department of Justice Canada, 284 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8

 

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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Victim Services Directory


The Victim Services Directory has been created by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues of the Department of Justice Canada to:

  • help service providers, victims and individuals locate services for victims of crime across Canada;
  • allow victims to determine which services they may require;
  • to link organizations and victims; and
  • to help all individuals access victim services.

Agency information for this Directory has been compiled through the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Victim Services Survey and includes Agencies in all provinces and territories across the country.

Using the Victim Services Directory you may complete a targeted search for agencies that deliver services to survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse in a specific city and/or municipality. The search involves three (3) steps:

  • Step 1: Select Province / Territory
  • Step 2: Select cities/municipalities
  • Step 3: Select at least one “Type of Victimization” or “Type of Service Provided”

Services for survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse may be found by searching under the following “Type of Victimization” categories listed in the directory:

  • Adult Survivor of Child/Youth Sexual Abuse
  • Child/Youth Sexual Assault – Child /Youth Victim
  • Child/Youth Victim of Sexual Exploitation
  • Families of Sexually Abused Children
  • Sexual Assault – Adult – Female Victims
  • Sexual Assault – Adult – Male Victims

You may also search for services under the following “Type of Service Provided” categories listed in the directory:

  • Advocacy
  • Compensation
  • Counseling
  • Court Accompaniment
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Crisis/Distress Line
  • Emotional Support
  • General Information
  • Hospital Accompaniment
  • Safety Planning/Risk Assessment
  • Self-Help Support Groups
  • Services Offered in Other Languages
  • Services Specific to Aboriginal Peoples
  • Services Specific to Children Youth
  • Services Specific to Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Men
  • Services Specific to Lesbian/ Bisexual/Transgender Women
  • Services Specific to Members of a Visible Minority
  • Services Specific to Persons with a Disability
  • Services Specific to Senior Persons
  • Shelters/Housing/Transition Homes
  • Victim Impact Statement (assistance in preparation)
  • Victim Notification
  • Victim/Witness Preparation

We hope that the Victim Services Directory will help you to find an agency in your area that will deliver the services to address your specific needs.

If you are having difficulty accessing the site using the highlighted/coloured text links in this post, please copy and paste the following URL from the Policy Centre for Victim Issues – Department of Justice into your browser’s address location bar:

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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Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime


In honour of the United Nations’ Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, and with concern for the harmful impact of criminal victimization on individuals and on society, and in recognition that all persons have the full protection of rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other provincial Charters governing rights and freedoms; that the rights of victims and offenders need to be balanced; and of the shared jurisdiction of federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice agree that the following principles should guide the treatment of victims, particularly during the criminal justice process.

The following principles are intended to promote fair treatment of victims and should be reflected in federal/provincial/territorial laws, policies and procedures:

  • Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.
  • The privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.
  • All reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims.
  • The safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.
  • Information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim’s role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes.
  • Victims should be given information, in accordance with prevailing law, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress and final outcome of the proceedings; and the status of the offender in the correctional system.
  • Information should be provided to victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them, and means of obtaining financial reparation.
  • The views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with prevailing law, policies and procedures.
  • The needs, concerns and diversity of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services, and in related education and training.
  • Information should be provided to victims about available options to raise their concerns when they believe that these principles have not been followed.

Promoting Justice for Victims of Crime

Federal, Provincial, Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice first endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime in 1988 and approved a renewed version in 2003. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, as part of its mandate relating to matters of federal responsibility, will enhance awareness among criminal justice personnel and policy makers of the needs and concerns of victims and the applicable laws that benefit victims of crime, including to promote the principles set out in the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime.

This information has been excerpted from the pages of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime on the Government of Canada web site.

The office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime was created in 2007 to ensure the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime. Please contact the office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime if you or someone you know has not been treated in accordance with these principles:

Mail:
Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
P.O. Box 55037
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1A1
Toll-free Number: 1-866-481-8429
Outside Canada: 1-613-954-1651
E-mail: victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca

 

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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