1 in 3 Women

4 04 2011

Ontario’s new Sexual Violence Action Plan: Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives addresses a “serious and pervasive” problem in this province. It speaks frankly (“violence against women devastates lives – it has no place in society and it will not be tolerated”) and includes a commitment of $15 million over four years ($5.2 M for public education campaigns, $1.6 M for professional training and education, $3 M for sexual assault centres, $3.7 M for interpreter services, $1.95 M for anti-human trafficking initiatives). 

Many Ontarians don’t realize the alarming statistics surrounding sexual violence and its prevalence in the lives of far too many women. One in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime. Sexual violence crosses all social boundaries, affects women of every age and cultural background, and has devastating impacts on the lives of victims and their families as well as the well-being of society as a whole. [Laurel Broten, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Sexual Violence Action Plan, March 2011].

The plan updates the Province’s former “domestic violence” action plan (2004) and addresses crimes such as sexual assault, sexual exploitation through human trafficking, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation using technology and the Internet. It focuses on sexual violence against those 16 years of age and older (the Plan reports that separate initiatives are being developed for children and for men).

Many people only think of sexual violence as a very violent crime that happens between strangers – the perpetrator lurking in a dark alley or in the bushes. In reality, most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim – an acquaintance, date, friend, colleague or family member – and often it occurs in private places, like the victim’s home [Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan].

The Plan acknowledges that current statistics are alarming and that women across Ontario live in fear. The crime that is sexual violence won’t be curtailed successfully by any one effort or approach alone, thus it is heartening to see prevention as well as post-incident response included in the Province’s approach. The stated vision in the Plan is that “Ontario is a place where all women live in safety, and are free from the threat, fear or experience of sexual violence”. Published progress reports are promised after two and four-year intervals (2013 and 2015).

No less than 16 provincial Ministries are listed in the Plan as partners in the effort and members of the Ministerial Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, and the Plan highlights several collaborative approaches. It is nonetheless unfortunate that the leadership in launching this Plan came from the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues. Sexual violence is not a “women’s issue”. But the Plan does include a request from the Province for changes to the Criminal Code of Canada and that’s a positive step in the battle against electronic victimization (among the newest threats). Also welcomed is the Province’s financial investment in education, prevention and victim response initiatives.

For a full version of the 23-page Plan click here: Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan 2011.

 

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