Province to fund pilot projects to better support survivors of sexual violence

It is estimated that one in three Canadian women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime, and one in six men will be affected by sexual violence. In order to address the staggering numbers, the government of Ontario has announced approximately $1.8 million over a two-year period to fund 15 police pilot programs to better support survivors of sexual assault.

The pilot projects vary in their scope, some focussed on building stronger community partnerships with police and survivors, while others will use the funds to review past cases of sexual assault in order to develop better training for police.

The projects are designed to provide more of a cohesive, compassionate and sensitive response to survivors of sexual violence while improving justice system outcomes by helping victims build stronger cases.

Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde said the purpose of the pilot programs is to help survivors feel more comfortable coming forward.

“Promoting a compassionate and effective police response is one of many measures our government is taking to help more survivors of sexual violence feel more comfortable moving forward,” Lalonde said in a press release. “This funding will help ensure a survivor-centred and effective investigative approach as these cases are brought forward and work their way through the justice system.”

This announcement by the provincial government came shortly after an investigation by the Globe and Mail found police services across Canada to be “ill-equipped and unwilling” to investigate sexual assault cases. The investigation, titled Unfounded, exposed that police dismissed one in five claims of sexual assault in Canada as baseless and unfounded.

Following the investigation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that instances of sexual assault and violence are not taken seriously enough by society, and said that his government is committed to doing more to address the issue.

“Sexual violence, sexual assault is still far too prevalent, not just on campuses but in workplaces and in communities across the country,” Trudeau said at a question-and-answer period with university students.

Trudeau acknowledged that addressing issues of sexual violence is complex, and called on all levels of government for their commitment in rectifying the situation.

“We know that any solution will have to be complex and come from all sides,” Trudeau said.

In Ontario, the pilot programs are just one part of the larger action plan enacted by the government to stop sexual violence and harassment. The plan, titled It’s Never Okay, is far-reaching. It outlines the provincial government’s commitment to raise public awareness, better train professionals to deal with instances of sexual violence, provide more choices and better outcomes for survivors through the justice system, create safer workplaces and campuses, and create lasting generational change.

In her message in the action plan, Premier Kathleen Wynne said instances of violence and harassment are realities in Ontario, but that must be rectified by “challenging the deep-rooted attitudes and behaviours that contribute to sexual violence and harassment.”

“The damaging reality of sexual violence and harassment does not appear only when the media and the government start talking about it, but the fact that we are once again focused on these issues moves us a step closer to the safe, fair and respectful society we all believe in and that people deserve,” said Wynne.

The pilot projects will receive funding from the provincial government over two years, with specific targets and report-back requirements.

A full list of the 15 pilot programs can be found here:

https://news.ontario.ca/mcscs/en/2017/02/police-pilot-projects-to-improve-response-to-sexual-violence.html

About the author  ⁄ Hannah Jackson

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