Today, the last day in April, marks the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This month is incredibly important to not only honour the many survivors of sexual violence, but advocate for better prevention strategies and ensure that no one has to endure such trauma again.
So what can be changed to prevent sexual assault in the future? Consider only 1 in 3 Canadians understand what it means to give consent in sexual circumstances, I would argue that a good starting place would be for consent to be included in school curriculums across the country at the earliest possible opportunity.
As well, only 5% of assaults are reported to the police and only 7% of reports ever lead to a custody sentence. This means that for every 1000 sexual assaults committed in Canada, only between 3 and 4 assailants go to jail. If we want to improve these statistics, we need to make the criminal justice system less aversive to victims and survivors. While everyone absolutely has the right to a fair trial and should of course be believed innocent until proven guilty, we need to critically examine how the criminal justice system treats survivors and what can be done to improve the rate of reporting.
Increasing the rate of reporting also begins with education. If we don’t understand what constitutes assault and what constitutes consent, this means there are assaults happening that are not reported. We also need safe reporting environments for victims. Those who have experienced sexual assault need to know that they are believed and supported, even when their report does not lead to a conviction.
With all this being said, if you are someone who has experienced sexual violence and need someone to talk to, you can call the NLSACPC’s 24/7 Crisis Support and Information Line at 1-800-726-2743.
You are strong, you are brave, and I believe you.
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