Violence Prevention Grey Bruce

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project start date: December 5, 2017

Stop Sexual Violence in Grey Bruce

Report & Recommendations from the 2018 STOP SV Community Survey

Prepared by Colleen Purdon for the
VPGB Sexual Violence Prevention Sub Committee,
May 2018

What is Sexual Violence?

Can we prevent sexual violence in Grey Bruce? What is needed to make change in our community? Violence Prevention Grey Bruce (VPGB), through its Sexual Violence Prevention Sub Committee conducted Grey Bruce’s first Survey on Sexual Violence Prevention. Over 345 people tackled these questions in the STOP Sexual Violence survey conducted December 2017 until the end of February 2018.

Sexual violence, for the purposes of the survey, includes sexual assault and sexual harassment.  Sexual assault is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. It is an assault that is sexual in nature including: sexual assault; sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; and aggravated sexual assault. Sexual violence towards children is a crime: Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of fourteen years is guilty of an indictable offence.

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which: violates your dignity, makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated, and/or creates a hostile or offensive environment. (Survey Definition)

We are pleased to present this final report with the findings and recommendations from the community survey. We would like to thank all of the survey participants for their time and for their thoughtful responses to the survey. About two thirds of the participants identified as survivors of sexual violence and told us what was helpful and how we can do more to prevent sexual violence. Service providers took time from their busy schedules to complete the survey, and make sure that the people they serve knew about the survey and had an opportunity to participate. Members and member organizations of Violence Prevention Grey Bruce distributed the online survey and hard copies and made it possible for people from all over the region and with many diverse perspectives to participate. Thank you to the people who responded through our social media campaign and to everyone who took part in the survey.

The Sexual Violence Prevention Sub Committee has worked for many years to explore ways we can prevent sexual violence in Grey Bruce. Some of the key learning that influenced the decision to conduct the STOP SV survey and its design are:

Purpose of the STOP SV Survey:

Statistics Canada — Police Reported sexual assaults in Canada 2009-2014

Methodology

Limitations

Health and Economic Impact of SV

from -STOP SV Technical Package

Survey Participants & Perspectives

Who participated in the survey?

What was their experience with sexual violence (SV)?

Survey participants came from many places of work and interests (VAW and SV workers, police, justice, community organizations, advocates, interested community). The survey included input from broad and diverse community perspectives.

Who is under represented with this survey response?

Use of services and supports by people who experienced SV

Survey Findings

Evidence Based SV Prevention

The survey gathered information on five evidence-based strategies that prevent sexual violence, to see how well these strategies are working in our region.  The survey findings are organized under each of the five prevention strategies under the headings: ‘strengths’ (evidence of the SV prevention strategy), ‘weaknesses’ (little or no evidence of the SV prevention strategy), and ‘discussion’ (what we learned from the data).

SSocial Norms that protect against sexual violence

TTeach Skills to prevent sexual violence

OOpportunities that empower and support girls and women

PProtective Environments that reduce the risk of sexual violence

S/VSupport Victims and Survivors to lessen the harm of sexual violence

Learn more about STOP SV Technical Package at www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/sv-prevention-technical-package.pdf

SPromoting Social Norms that Protect Against Sexual Violence

Strengths

“The #MeToo campaign seems pretty effective”

“Victim blaming is still rampant…everyone seem to still stand by the saying, there are two sides to every story. This keeps bystanders from doing anything.” (survey participant)

“Consent is something coming more strongly into public consciousness…it’s going to be a huge factor in preventing sexual crimes in the future.” (survey participant)

Survey participants identified strategies in Grey Bruce that promote sexual norms that prevent sexual violence:

Weaknesses

“Consent is hard to isolate when weighed against the possible consequences of not consenting (social, job, family).” (survey participant)

“We are starting but it is moving slowly. Young people are being taught one thing but society is still teaching them victim blaming and the whole boys will be boys mindset.” (survey participant)

Discussion

In order to prevent sexual violence we need to change the harmful social norms that accept or allow indifference to violence. Engaging people in bystander approaches to help them identify SV, empower them to speak up about SV, and help them take steps to intervene safely and effectively, and mobilizing men and boys to be allies in preventing SV, support victims, and reduce their risk for future perpetration are both evidence based strategies that prevent SV. Another promising approach is to ensure people understand the concept of consent within sexual behavior.

Survey participants overwhelmingly said that much more needs to done to change social norms to protect against sexual violence. Although there are some promising initiatives and campaigns in Grey Bruce (It Starts with Me poster campaign, May Sexual Assault Month, #MeToo) most participants did not know about them. Survey participants believe sexual violence prevention programs need to be provided by health, police, education and community service organizations.

Interventions by bystanders to address SV were rated as poor or fair and many people noted that there is a reluctance in Grey Bruce to intervene or support victims, and a tendency to blame victims.

They reported that most men and boys are not engaged in programs that promote healthy masculinity, and most boys and men have a poor understanding of consent.

Broad education and training on helpful bystander approaches, healthy masculinity and consent are much needed in Grey Bruce.

TTeach Skills to Prevent Sexual Violence.

Strengths

‘We need to start having open conversations right away and always. This should not start at a specific age. It needs to be the background everyone hears all the time. Otherwise the background they are hearing is – it was her fault.” (survey participant)

Weaknesses

‘The issue is that not everyone feels comfortable teaching sexual violence prevention, so important areas of the conversation may be overlooked.’(survey participant)

Discussion

“Sexual violence already happened to me but bringing it into the education system would be good…sex education does not teach about or enough about sexual assault.” (survey participant)

There are a number of skills-based training approaches that are effective in addressing SV perpetration, victimization or risk factors for SV including: teaching healthy, safe dating skills; promoting health sexuality through comprehensive sex education; training for women to reduce the risk for victimization; and changing the way children and adolescents think and feel about violence.

In Grey Bruce most survey participants stated that parents and teachers are teaching children and youth skills to prevent SV, but over half rated these skills-based approaches in the poor or fair range. There were no reports of specific skills based training on safe dating, or to reduce risk of victimization.

It appears that survey participants believe that most children and youth get information about sex and intimate relationships from friends, peers, social media and media in Grey Bruce – which may make them more vulnerable to sexual violence.

The findings from the survey show a great need for evidence and skills based based training to prevent sexual violence, and for multi faceted approaches to provide children and youth with good information about healthy sexuality and intimate relationships. There is broad agreement that this training needs to start early and continue across the lifespan.

OOpportunities that Empower and Support Girls and Women

Strengths

‘We need better access to low income housing, mental health supports – often there is crisis response but ongoing support or evidence based treatments like CBT are not available for women or children when they are not in crisis.’ ‘Many (programs) are faith based which in itself isolates people not willing to participate in faith based activities.’(survey participant)

Weaknesses

‘I can’t think of one person (male or female) that has not experienced a ‘form’ of sexual violence or harassment.’(survey participant)

Discussion

Studies show that there is a connection between empowering and supporting women and girls through income support, education, employment, opportunities for leadership and civic engagement and reducing women and girls’ risk of SV. Poverty and low-income status are directly linked to sexual violence and sexual trafficking, and increase their vulnerability to abuse. Rates of SV are lower in countries where women have higher educational and occupational status.

Most survey participants were not aware of local leadership and empowerment programs for women and girls. There are some programs in place, but they are not widely known, or access is difficult. Participants see a connection between poverty, lack of affordable housing, and lack of leadership programs for women and girls and their vulnerability to SV. Over half of the survey participants who answered this question had experienced sexual violence at the hands of a person in a position of power or authority, including a broad range of professionals, which highlights the need for their access to knowledge, protective and empowerment strategies, and demonstrates their vulnerability to SV. The survey response indicates a need to improve opportunities for empowerment in Grey Bruce, and the need to include SV protective strategies for vulnerable women and girls in current programs in the area.

PProtective Environments that change the social and physical environment and reduce risk

Strengths

‘Awareness is certainly taught, but skills are lacking. Early social skills training on how to deal with anger, frustration, and sexuality need to be taught for both girls and boys.’ (survey participant)

Weaknesses

‘My work has policies and procedures written out, but as a company of 60 employees, we do not have an HR person to deal with anything. Everything is swept under the rug and those who speak up about it are reprimanded for doing so.’ (survey participant)

Discussion

There is evidence that the creation of protective community environments can support population-level reductions in SV. Three approaches that show promise are: improving safety and monitoring in schools, establishing and applying workplace policies, and using environmental approaches, for example changing laws, enforcing laws, and/or increasing social controls to prevent SV. These approaches can increase feelings of safety at school, workplaces and in communities, reduce bullying and sexual harassment and reduce rates of SV in communities.

The survey response notes that there are some practices and policies in place in schools and workplaces that support protective community environments in place but that the implementation and awareness of these approaches is uneven. Overall there was a call for more awareness and training about how to use protective measures in schools, workplaces and communities. There was considerable interest in learning more about protective measures expressed by survey participants.

The implementation of school and workplaces policies to prevent sexual violence was considered low by most participants. The criminal justice system response to SV was rated in the poor to fair range, which can have an impact on deterring SV and feelings of safety or protection in communities. Police work with teachers within the schools system, helping to teach SV prevention and about consent was seen as positive and protective and consideration could be given to re establishing this collaboration.

SVSupport Victims/Survivors to lessen Harms

Strengths

‘Child witnesses are not prepared adequately nor do police and judges account for the child development issues which effect disclosure. Police lack sex offender specific training.’ (survey participant)

Weaknesses

‘Too many people don’t understand trauma and how it affects peoples’ brains – including volunteers and workers in some victim-centered services.’ (survey participant)

‘There needs to be more open communication between services.’ (survey participant)

Discussion:

Sexual violence and victimization in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood can have long-term effects on the health and well being of survivors. It can also increase a person’s risk for later SV perpetration and problem behaviours for youth and adults. There are evidence-based therapeutic and victim centered approaches that can help survivors and lessen the harms and long-term risks from SV. Three successful approaches are: Victim-centered services (support groups, crisis intervention, advocacy, access to community resources), Treatment for victims of SV (psychological and psychosocial interventions to address anxiety, depression, distress), and treatment for at risk children, including sex offending.

Survey responses showed a low level of awareness of evidence based treatment approaches in the region, especially for high-risk children. There are effective approaches to SV but it appears that most people don’t know about them. There is also a need to improve service coordination, and the response of criminal justice system.

Survey participants would like to see an improvement in services and supports for perpetrators of sexual violence and an increase in trauma and violence informed service approaches for both survivors and perpetrators of SV.

10 Priority Actions to Prevent Sexual Violence

86 people responded to the question asking respondents what they believe is the most important action to prevent sexual violence. A summary of their suggestions for action include:

  1. Educate boys and men on consent, and teach girls and women they can say no.
  2. Police need to be trained to deal with the victims of sexual violence
  3. Prevent sexual violence by working with offenders as well as young victims
  4. Healthy relationship programs for adolescents offered in schools
  5. Erase the stigma and provide more information on sexual violence and harassment
  6. Improve coordination among support programs and between organizations
  7. Change the approach to boys and men – less labeling and stigmatizing. Provide safe space for male folks to share their hurt, learn about the hurt of women, trans, non binary folks, learn about healing and other ways to live,
  8. Public Education – Use the ‘Into the Open’ model in the education of the public, more education on prevalence of SV, Engage survivors as teachers and speakers, Increase presence of violence against women providers in education, More education on consent and services.
  9. Increase protective factors for children through family education, reducing the isolation of vulnerable families, improved responses for children.
  10. Focused community outreach to populations most likely to be perpetrators of sexual violence.

Summary & Recommendations

What is the change we need?

The members of the VPGB Sexual Violence Prevention Sub Committee identified six priorities for change, based on the findings from the survey:

  1. Engage men and young men in prevention. Sexual violence is not a women’s issue. It is a community issue. Men and boys have a critical role to play in SV prevention.
  2. Change cultural beliefs and attitudes about sexual violence such as: victims are to blame, men cannot control their sexuality, it is better to remain silent than seek help, and victims need to ‘get over it’. Replace myths with good information about sex and sexual violence.
  3. Overcome secrecy and talk about this issue – we need to ‘normalize’ talking about sexuality and sexual violence issues, address the stigma and shame surrounding SV, and understand how we are desensitized towards sexual violence through its portrayal in media and social media as well as through acceptance of powerful myths and attitudes.
  4. Understand and educate everyone about consent, respecting ‘no’, and that ‘no’ is an option for women.
  5. Engage the public and services in broad, evidence based prevention strategies to address the pervasive nature of sexual violence in our communities.
  6. Improve the service response for victims and offenders. Use trauma and violence informed approaches and prevent revictimization, improve services and supports for men and boys, improve the response of the criminal justice system, focus on both crisis and longer term services and support that both victims and offenders need, make sure everyone knows about community services, how to access them, and what to expect, include and support input and direction from people with lived experience of sexual violence in the system response.

Specific Recommendations for Action

SSocial Norms that protect against sexual violence

Recommendation

That Violence Prevention Grey Bruce take a leadership role and partner with key community stakeholders to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence in the region and the need to change beliefs, attitudes and behaviours to prevent it. This could include:

  • Coordinated campaigns during May (designated as Sexual Assault Prevention Month) carried out by diverse service sectors (health, justice, violence against women, education, etc.) and community stakeholders (workplaces, service groups, municipalities, etc).
  • Introduction and implementation of effective bystander training approaches across service sectors and in communities.
  • Development and implementation of workshops and learning opportunities to improve the understanding of consent for men and women of all ages.

TTeach Skills to prevent sexual violence

Recommendation

That VPGB take a leadership role and partner with key community stakeholders to implement evidence based skills training opportunities, increase community capacity and prevent sexual violence in the region. This could include:

  • Workshops and skills training sessions for parents, teachers, friends, neighbours on how to talk to children and youth about sex, sexual violence and sexual violence prevention, how to respond and support children and youth when they disclose sexual violence, information about community resources and supports.
  • Workshops and skills training sessions for youth on healthy relationships, risk factors, sexual violence prevention, where to get help, supporting friends and peers who disclose sexual violence, training for peer mentors and supports.
  • Bringing key stakeholders together to develop a plan with the education sector on how best to support educators, students and parents of students develop necessary skills to address and prevent sexual violence.

OOpportunities that empower and support girls and women

Recommendation

That agencies, organizations, community groups, and intersector coordinating bodies (for example: The Poverty Task Force, Children’s Alliance, VPGB, Human Services and Justice Committee, Healthy Communities) develop new approaches to empower and support girls and women living with poverty who are at risk of sexual violence. This could include:

  • Development of new leadership and empowerment programs for women and girls in Grey Bruce that include training and information on sexual violence prevention. Include women with lived experience of sexual violence as experts and leaders in training and empowerment programs.
  • Improving access and awareness to existing leadership and empowerment programs, and ensuring that information on sexual violence prevention is included in these programs. Include women with lived experience of sexual violence as experts and leaders in training and empowerment programs.
  • Action that will strengthen broad connections and engagement at the service and community levels and support a common voice that advocates for policies and investments in poverty reduction, affordable housing, accessible services, and a reduction in the risk of sexual violence for people living with poverty.

PProtective Environments that reduce the risk of sexual violence

Recommendation

  • That VPGB and its member organizations provide community workplaces and schools with information, tools, skills training and support to implement policies and practices that will provide protective environments that can prevent sexual violence.
  • That police services and the criminal justice system improve their response to victims of sexual violence, provide a trauma and violence informed approach that links victims to community supports and services, and uses existing laws and processes to support justice for victims of sexual violence.

S/VSupport Victims and Survivors to lessen the harm of sexual violence

Recommendation

That VPGB and its member organizations provide leadership to:

  • Improve service coordination and improve system navigation for survivors of sexual violence so there is ‘No Wrong Door’ for people who reach out for help to deal with sexual violence.
  • Improve awareness and access to existing evidence-based treatment approaches, and work together to address wait times and service gaps
    Support the development of effective local treatment and support options for offenders and those at risk of offending. More supportive services and interventions are needed for young offenders, or young people at risk of offending to help them in order to prevent future sexual violence.
  • Look at joint training opportunities and broad implementation of trauma and violence informed treatment and service responses that reduce the risk of re-traumatizing victims, and reduce the fear and stigma that survivors experience.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the SV Survey and to our readers and supporters. Together we will work to prevent sexual violence in Grey Bruce! We welcome your comments and feedback at our contact page.

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