November 30, 2012

Breaking walls of silence

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The Sexual Assault Network is a network of organizations which provides services to sexual assault survivors and the SAN coordinator is an employee of Family Services Ottawa. Our common goal is raising awareness, dispelling myths, and preventing sexual assault from occurring.

On November 19th, the following letter written by Sexual Assault Network Co-ordinator Bailey Reid was published by the Ottawa Citizen.  The letter was in response to the article  Woman fighs for back pay after rape by fellow police officer, Nov 10.

Thanks to the Citizen for covering the story of Denise Robinson. Her story is one of countless women across this country, and by breaking walls of silence that surround sexual assault, we are making important steps in ending sexual violence.

I am the co-ordinator of the Sexual Assault Network. SAN’s mandate is to co-ordinate sexual assault services in the Ottawa area. SAN also provides support, information and professional development to local service providers who work in the area of sexual violence against women.

Robinson’s story is one that I believe many survivors can relate to, and many women can relate to. It highlights the culture of victim-

blaming we currently have, a culture that prevents so many women from coming forward in reporting their assault. Questioning her own behaviour, asking herself if she had invited him in, perhaps blaming herself for the violence, it is this type of belief that perpetuates the isolation so many survivors of sexual assault feel.

I commend Robinson’s courageous move in coming forward. By doing so, she has an important opportunity to become a leader in ending violence against women. She can inspire others to say, “This is not acceptable in our workplace.”

More importantly, we must examine our own attitudes and opinions.

It is not important to highlight that Robinson had not eaten dinner and it was not important to highlight that she “drank too much wine.” These are not reasons for her to be assaulted. There is no excuse for the behaviour of Joe Willie Saunders, the man who assaulted her.

Sexual assault is assault, it is violence, and it is a violation, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding it. We must stop blaming women for the behaviour of men who seek to exercise power and control so negatively.

Again, we must emphasize the courage of women who come forward to report their assault, and we must support them after they do so.

Bailey Reid, Ottawa, Co-ordinator, Sexual Assault Network

 

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