After witnessing First Nations people give testimony about historical sexual abuses during the Truth and Reconciliation hearings two years ago, Cariboo Regional District (CRD) director Joan Sorley was inspired to speak out about her own experience of being raped.
“I said to CRD director Margo Wagner I was raped once when I was 14 and I never talk about it, I just keep it pushed back,” Sorely said, noting Wagner told Sorley she’d been a victim of sexual assault as well.
Sorley represents the CRD on the North Central Local Government Association board.
This fall she penned an executive resolution calling for a task force to “determine how to end the rape culture that is pervasive in schools, universities, workplaces and elsewhere across Canada.”
In September the resolution went to the Union of BC Municipalities Convention in Vancouver.
During the debate Sorley was having a rough time speaking to the resolution and decided to share her own story.
“I thought I would just put it out there and then people will at least understand why I’m pretty emotional about this,” she said.
Afterwards other women approached her and shared stories of being sexually abused.
Sorley’s conviction also garnered recognition and support locally from the Women’s Contact Society in Williams Lake.
At its annual general meeting in October, executive director Irene Willsie acknowledged Sorley for her efforts.
“Sexual assault is not fun or easy to discuss,” Willsie said. “Joan’s efforts on behalf of women are significant. It takes courage.”
During the meeting Willsie announced that the WCS is starting a new group called the Change Makers that will promote informed rather than fearful conversations.
“Williams Lake is full of strong vibrant women who are in different circles,” she said. “We can work together, listen to each other, and disagreeing is OK.”
The intent of the group won’t be about change for change’s sake, but about making the community a healthier and safer place to live, she added.
“If a community wants to reduce violence against women then the most important thing is to talk about it.”
Studies show only six per cent of people report sexual abuse because they run the risk of not being believed and being shamed, Sorley added.
“It needs to change so when something happens society supports the victim,” she said. “I am finally angry and determined to do something about it.”