Letter: Most sexual assaults go unreported

On March 24 Canadians learned the outcome of one of the most high profile and widely discussed sexual assault trials of the decade.

Editor:

On March 24 Canadians learned the outcome of one of the most high profile and widely discussed sexual assault trials of the decade.

Whether the judge determined Jian Ghomishi was guilty or innocent of sexual assault, the Ending Violence Association of BC and anti-violence programs across B.C. want all survivors to know that we believe you.

It takes courage to report a sexual assault to the police.

Some survivors choose to report. Most do not. In fact, 97 per cent of sexual assaults go unreported in Canada.

Of those that are reported to police, most do not lead to charges, let alone convictions.

Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults in Canada, 997 assailants walk free. (Source: Johnson, “Limits of Criminal Justice Response:

Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault,” in Sheehy, Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism, 2012)

“Sexual assault is the most underreported of all violent crime in Canada,” said Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of BC.

“While rates of self-reported victimization in Canada have declined overall, the exception to this is in cases of sexual assault.”

It’s not always simple to fully understand the short and long-term impacts of this particular kind of trauma — not simple for survivors themselves nor others.

There may or may not be visible physical injuries, but in every case there will be psychological impacts that can last a lifetime.

The impacts can stem from the terror of experiencing a dehumanizing attack on one’s physical bodily integrity; the humiliation that ensues from heinous sexual acts being perpetrated by someone victims often thought they knew; blame and judgment from friends, family, the police and others; and the self blame that most survivors struggle to come to terms with.

Focusing on the behaviour of victims doesn’t help us to understand this violent crime nor does it help us to hold perpetrators accountable for the crimes they commit.

Sexual assault in dating relationships, like the ones described by the complainants in the Ghomeshi case, need to be understood within the context of intimate partner violence.

Seventy five per cent of sexual assaults are committed by somebody known to the survivor (Statistics Canada, Prevalence and severity of violence against women, 2013).

We want to express our deep admiration and respect for the survivors who so courageously decided to speak out.

Their willingness to come forward has started a public conversation in our country about the crime of sexual assault, a conversation we hope will help create a safer environment for others to come forward.

The Women’s Contact Society provides a wide range of services for women and their families in Williams Lake and the surrounding area.

Free counselling is available to women who have or are experiencing abuse, violence and trauma.

No referral is required; call 250-392-4118 to book an appointment.

Irene Willsie, executive director

Women’s Contact Society