BY SARA SASILA
According to Sex Assault Canada, of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only six are reported to the police.
Diana Boal, the executive director for Victim Services of Waterloo Region, said she isn’t surprised that many sexual assaults are not reported.
“Victims can be very much re-traumatized as they go through the judicial process. Generally speaking, I think that victims of sexual assaults may fear humiliation, retribution and simply not being believed,” she said. “I also personally think that rape culture still very much permeates our society and some victims may fear that somehow they were to blame, ‘What was she wearing?’ ‘Was she drinking?’ those kind of negative stereotypes.”
Victim Services of Waterloo Region (VSWR) is a centre that provides immediate crisis intervention, emotional support and community referrals to individuals affected by crime or tragic situations.
Mary Lou Binkle, the crisis response co-ordinator at VSWR, said there are more females than males who come to the centre.
“In 2015/2016, we have had 32 people come forward about being sexually assaulted,” she said.
According to Sex Assault Canada, one in four North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
Joan Tuchlinsky, the public education manager at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, said women come forward more than men when it comes to sexual assault and rape.
“Men worry about being believed not because they will be blamed but that people won’t believe a male could be sexually assaulted,” said Tuchlinsky. “One example might be male youth who are sexually assaulted by adult women are often congratulated – lucky them instead of being seen as taken advantage of.”
Tuchlinsky said she believes that there needs to be changes to the legal system.
“The legal system currently does not provide a lot of support to survivors or provide much of an opportunity for justice,” said Tuchlinsky.
She defined sexual assault as any unwanted act of a sexual nature imposed by one person upon another. Sexual assault includes rape, indecent assault, childhood sexual abuse and other forms of coercive activity.
In 2015, CBC News contacted 87 universities and colleges across Canada to request the number of sexual assaults reported on campuses between 2009 and 2013. They found there were 700 sexual assaults reported during that time, which experts said was surprisingly low, indicating post-secondary institutions are doing a poor job of encouraging students to come forward.
There were 57 sexual assaults reported at Ryerson University in Toronto, 19 at the University of Waterloo and 11 at Wilfrid Laurier University.
At Conestoga College, there was one sexual assault reported in 2011 and one in 2013.
When looked at in relation to the schools’ populations, these numbers are much lower than the number of sexual assaults reported in the surrounding cities.
This raises one question – do universities and colleges hide sexual assault allegations?
“I believe that post-secondary institutions now have an amazing opportunity to take the lead on providing a reputation that is welcoming to those who have been sexually assaulted,” said Boal. “To provide leadership in the area of defeating rape culture on campus, and to invite survivors and victims to speak out about how the communities in which they live/work/go to school can be at the forefront of positivity.”
At Conestoga College, Security Services’ Walksafe program provides escorts to staff, students and visitors at Doon campus upon request during the school year between the hours of 6:45 and 10:45 p.m. Monday to Thursday. The Walksafe teams are located at Doors 1 and 6 and will escort people anywhere on college property, to the residence and to homes in the nearby vicinity.
If you know someone or if you are a victim of sexual assault, there are many ways to find help on and off campus. Counselling Services, Human Resources, any staff or faculty member, Security Services and the Waterloo Regional Police are all available.
“If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, let them know that you believe them and listen respectfully,” said Tuchlinsky. “Reassure them that it was not their fault, let them know they are not alone and support their decisions with regard to their own healing, even if it is to do nothing.”